PONTE VEDRA BEACH – Fleming Island High graduate and golf team member Brady Hollenbacher was found walking around at the recent Players Championships golf tournament at Ponte Vedra Beach’s …
PONTE VEDRA BEACH – Fleming Island High graduate and golf team member Brady Hollenbacher was found walking around at the recent Players Championships golf tournament at Ponte Vedra Beach’s Sawgrass Club.
“I hope one day to be playing here,” said Hollenbacher, who has been playing as a pro golfer for about a year. “I’m giving myself the next two years to give it a try. I made the decision about two weeks ago to let my game go and see if I can get to this level.”
Hollenbacher, who recently graduated from the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina, thinks he has prepared himself physically and mentally to attack the preparations to becoming a PGA pro.
On Mon., May 15, just a day after watching the world’s greatest golfers take on the Sawgrass Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Hollenbacher was set to compete in one of 114 U.S. Open qualifiers around the country. The qualifiers are a 114 match series from May 2-18 conducted in 44 states and Canada to find golfers for the 117th U.S. Open golf championships on June 15-18 to be played at Erin Hills in Erin, WI.
At Mount Olive, a top NCAA Division II golf program with five NCAA tournament appearances since 2007, Hollenbacher sits in a seven man tie for the second best low round in Mount Olive golf history with a 2015 round of 67 sitting under 2009’s 66 recorded by Riley Boyette, who recently won the 2016 Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association championship.
Hollenbacher, 23, graduated Fleming Island in 2012, had region appearances as a Golden Eagle, but was looking to get golf to pay for college.
“I really didn’t want to work behind a counter or a regular job back then while in college and I decided that I needed to improve my golf,” said Hollenbacher. “I worked hard to become a scratch golfer and did that in just 13 months.”
Hollenbacher played four years at Mount Olive despite two shoulder injuries. Hollenbacher graduated in May 2016 with degree in business management so phase one was completed.
“I actually played three and a half years because of wear and tear injuries,” said Hollenbacher. “I don’t think it’s a golf related injury only because most golfers get those injuries after years of playing. I had to work on my core strength.”
Hollenbacher credited his dad, Paul, with okaying the dream to play in the PGA.
“He’s letting me stay at home for two or three years to attempt to get picked up,” said Hollenbacher. “Golf, at this level, is costly with the tournaments and travel expenses adding up. It just takes one good tournament in front of the right people to get the sponsorship to keep going.”
Hollenbacher said the sponsorship angle is one of the keys to getting on board on the PGA.
“I played and won a minor league tour series that was supposed to attract some financial help for Q school (Qualifying school),” said Hollenbacher. “There are four stages of Q schools. It’s a lot of golf, 15 rounds, all tournament play that determine the upcoming players. It adds up.”
Hollenbacher put it out there that his golf game has improved a lot since leaving college and is just anticipating the move to the next level.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time on my short game,” said Hollenbacher. “I believe I can hit as far as some of the guys out here (Players). I truly believe that.”
Though Hollenbacher has yet to play on the Sawgrass course, his learning curve has changed from trying to emulate top tier golfers to honing his own strokes to better his performances.
“I used to watch or go to big events and then go home and try to hit like the players out here,” said Hollenbacher. “I learned the hard way that I have to have my own stroke and not worry about what it looks like if it works for me. That was a big step. I started trusting myself.”
Hollenbacher’s most recent golf competition was a 71-65 six-under par effort two months ago.
“I shot a 30 on the back nine at that one,” said Hollenbacher. “I got into tunnel vision with the hole looking gigantic. It’s good to know that I can tap into the zone.”