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DECATUR — If there is one hole that Jillian Hollis knows on the Symetra Tour like the back of her hand, it's No. 18 at Hickory Point Golf Course. 

At last year's Forsyth Classic, Hollis finished the third round in a tie at 13-under par with Isa Gabsa, of Germany. In a playoff, Gabsa and Hollis battled four times on the 18th hole until Hollis' birdie attempt from 20 feet out missed. 

"I was laughing that I've played No. 18 nine times and this will only be my second time playing the course," Hollis said on Tuesday at the Par-Tee Invite meet-and-greet. "I really wanted to win, but getting into the playoffs was really cool. I felt really good going into the week and had a really good round that second day. To play in that playoff and play for four holes was pretty exciting."

Last year's Forsyth Classic was Hollis' debut on the Symetra Tour after making a decision to forgo her senior year at the University of Georgia where she was a three-time All-American. 

"It was a difficult decision, I wanted to finish out the year with my team but I also wanted to join the tour to get a better chance to make the LPGA," Hollis said. "I'm happy I did what I did. I was able to finish all my classes to where I could take my remaining classes online and I graduated a couple weeks ago."

Hollis was a journalism and communications major and a career in media might be in her future. 

"I've dipped my toe in a little bit. I have done some commentating and took over the Symetra Tour's Instagram Live for the first tournament of the year. It came pretty naturally, I like talking a lot," she said. 

Returning to Hickory Point is something she has been looking forward to. 

"The tournament is great, it is a great course. I really like the layout and it is similar to my course at home (in Ohio)," Hollis said. "I was so excited to play last year because if was my first one and I'm so excited to come back and play here. Each week is getting better and better."

Hollis has a hot hand as she finished second at last week's tour stop at the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Ind. The event was close to home and Hollis was able to share some special memories with her family. 

"My mom and grandma came last week to see me play near Notre Dame. That's where my late grandpa attended and played golf there," Hollis said. "He never got to see me play at this level but I always feel like he is walking with me every week so for my grandma to get to come out and watch me — she's 83 — that was super special."

Along with her second-place finish, Hollis captured her first Symetra title with a victory at the Insurance Office of America (IOA) Championship on March 31, as well as four top-10 finishes this season. She currently sits at No. 5 in the Volvik Race for the Card money standings. Golfers finishing in the top 10 at the end of the tour in October receive their LPGA Tour Card. 

Hollis does her best to not focus on the money too much. 

"I really don't know where I am in the money. I don't check the stats, I'm just trying to go out every week and do something a little bit better than I did last week. I go into every week wanting to play my best," she said. "My game is feeling good right now. I'm practicing a lot and doing everything right. Working with my coaches and putting in the work and it is paying off."

For the final Forsyth Classic tournament, the purse has been bumped up to $200,000 with $30,000 going to Sunday's champion. The increase has made the tour stop a must-play for those competing in the money standings and all of the top 10 players in the money standings will be teeing off at Hickory Point on Friday. 

"It's awesome that people are supporting women's golf and that the sport is growing and people want to come out and watch and get behind us. That's what I want to do for the game which is grow it," Hollis said. "Come watch us play, this course is really easy to walk because you can see a lot of the golf between the holes. You can stand at one hole and see a couple of different golfers."

Hollis has quickly become a rising star on the Symetra Tour and she is now experiencing first-hand the moments she cherished as a kid. 

"I was at the (PGA's) Bridgestone Invitational and I remember Rory (McIlroy) giving my brother a golf ball and he was over the moon happy. It's things like that. I gave a little kid a golf ball last week and he ran away with it and showed his parents. It was so cute," Hollis said. "I remember when I was younger and people were nice to me. When we have little kids come out and watch, it makes their day when you give them a golf ball or give them a high-five. That's the important part for me. You remember those things."

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Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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