A typical athlete on the Epson Tour has been competing in golf tournaments for as long as they can remember. Sure, there are some late bloomers who did not pick up the game until later in life, but for a majority of them, golf has consumed their life. However, Katherine Hollern is not a typical athlete on the Epson Tour. Hollern was an All-American lacrosse player in high school with aspirations of playing lacrosse for as long as she could. She would occasionally pick up a golf club when the time presented itself, and at first, it was just something to do when she was not playing lacrosse.
“Before I played golf competitively, I played lacrosse at a high level,” said Hollern. “I was an All-American throughout high school, but I only really played golf as a summer activity in between my lacrosse schedule. I wanted to play Division I lacrosse, but I unfortunately missed my recruiting window, but it was always my goal to play college lacrosse when I was younger.”
Hollern ended up playing one year of college lacrosse before deciding to transfer to the University of Denver to finish her college education. Denver has a college team, and Hollern thought about trying to play as a walk-on but ultimately decided against it. It was during her time at the University of Denver that she found a passion for golf and her competitive instincts took over.
“When I graduated from the University of Denver, I moved to Jacksonville to pursue golf,” explained Hollern. “I found myself an instructor and started to play the Eggland’s Best Golf Tour because they allowed me to play as an amateur. Right out of college, I was like a 13 handicap and 88’d out of like my first four events.”
A lot of mini tours have a policy which is known by the players as the “88 Rule”. Essentially, if a player shoots an 88 or higher in a round, they are cut from the tournament to help protect the field. All of that did not seem to bother Hollern, who in a few short years would be playing at one of the most prestigious amateur events for female golfers. Then it was time to turn pro.
“I started to get better, and I qualified for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur during my first year playing golf full time,” said Hollern. “Then I turned pro in 2020 and played in some LPGA Tour Monday Qualifiers and played I think one Epson Tour event, missing the cut. Then in 2021 I started playing the Women’s All Pro Tour (WAPT) and followed that path to the Epson Tour.”
Hollern’s confidence began to grow as she started to put up better scores and reach milestones in her game. Less than two years after she decided to turn pro, the now 26-year-old was playing in her first LPGA Tour event as a Monday Qualifier.
“In 2021 I qualified for the Dana Open on the LPGA Tour, which was really cool because it is in Toledo, Ohio and that is where my mom is from,” said Hollern. “It was nice having my first LPGA Tour event somewhere that is close to me and close to family. After that, I stayed on the WAPT and really started to find my game last year. I started to consistently finish in the top 20, then top 10.”
Once she got a taste of what life was like on the LPGA Tour, she wanted to do everything she could to have that experience every time she teed it up in a competitive round. Then in the summer of 2022, Hollern got one step closer to her goal by making it out of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament Stage I and earning some status on the Epson Tour for the 2023 season.
“I went to Stage I and qualified through Stage I,” explained Hollern. “Stage II was a little rough for me, but I got into my first full season with Epson this year. I missed the first six events because I didn’t have the best status, so my season started at Garden City (Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes). Learning the ups and downs, the ins and outs of a different tour is hard, so it was a learning curve for me that week.”
The pressure of playing professional golf at this level is a learning curve for anyone, no matter how long you’ve played or how good you are. Hollern is still going through the growing pains that all professional golfers go through when they join a new tour and are competing against some of the best players in the world.
“I put so much pressure on myself each week instead of just coming out and playing golf,” said Hollern. “My main goal like all the players out here is to compete at a high level and eventually win a golf tournament. Right now, I am hoping to have a strong few weeks and play my way out of Stage I, but at the same time I am trying to compete and hopefully some things go my way.”
Hollern has set her goals over the next month, but at the end of the day, she knows that she is doing something she loves to do for a living and is trying to take advantage of the opportunity that has been put in front of her.
“My main goal for the next three weeks is to just go play golf,” said Hollern. “I know I have the game to compete as long as I get out of my own way. So, I am just trying to play some clean golf and just enjoy the game I love. I love to do this, and I am beyond blessed to do this each week.”
Hollern tees off in the first round of the Twin Bridges Championship on Friday, July 21 at 9:14 a.m. ET as she looks to make her way up the money list and out of Stage I. Follow along at https://www.epsontour.com.