Athens, Ga. — The future of Georgia women’s golf got a whole lot brighter just after sunrise on Wednesday morning. At approximately 7 a.m. ET, three of the nation’s top-12 golfers in the Class of 2015 inked letters of intent to play collegiately with the Bulldogs on the first day of the NCAA’s weeklong early signing period.
Jillian Hollis, Rinko Mitsunaga and Bailey Tardy signed with Georgia and will join the Bulldogs next fall. Hollis and Tardy were recently named first-team Rolex Junior All-Americans by the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) for 2014, while Mitsunaga was a second-team choice. Hollis is currently listed at No. 3 and No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index and AJGA/Polo rankings, respectively. Tardy is ranked No. 6 by the AJGA and No. 7 by Golfweek, while Mitsunaga is No. 12 by both.
“When we started here almost three years ago it’s the class we focused on,” said third-year head coach Josh Brewer. “It was when we had the most scholarship money and spaces available. It’s obviously great for us for it to fall into place where we get two first-team All-Americans and a second-team All-American. I think it’s the best class in the country. I’m a little biased but going by the rankings – signing three out of the top-12 – no other school can say that.”
The papers for Tardy were first to arrive at 7:07, followed shortly thereafter by Hollis and then Mitsunaga.
Hollis is a native of Rocky River, Ohio, who has skyrocketed in the national rankings over the past year. She participated in the 2014 Canadian Pacific Women’s Open and posted five top-5 finishes in nine AJGA national level tournaments over the past year. Hollis won the AJGA Junior at Sugar Valley, tied for third at The Ping Invitational and finished fifth at the AJGA Girls Championship, the Scott Robertson Memorial and the Polo Junior Golf Classic.
“Jillian was a late addition,” Brewer said. “We’re very thankful that she gave us a chance. It’s a fun story. She’s a player who was kind of unheard of a year or a year and a half ago. Jillian thrived at the local level; h owever, she didn’t play a lot of national golf but once she started, she exploded onto the scene as her ranking shows. She’s No. 3 now and will only continue to grow. She played the Canadian Open this past summer and I think her best golf is ahead of her, which is a bold statement when you’re already a first-team All-American.”
Mitsunaga’s extensive junior career is headlined by an appearance in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open as a 15-year-old. The Roswell, Ga., native earned that spot by placing third at a qualifier. Mitsunaga was named honorable mention All-America by the AJGA in both 2011 – when she won the AJGA Junior at Oxmoor Valley and the AJGA Junior at Savannah Quarters – and in 2013 – when she captured top individual honors at the AJGA Brian Harman Junior Championship and the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour event.
“Rinko was the No. 1 player for her class when I took the job at Georgia,” Brewer said. “She had just played the U.S. Open and competed on a high, high level nationally. I followed her for about three straight months, watching her and trying to get her to come to Georgia. She’s continued that success. She’s been an All-American three of the past four years now and brought a very valuable big-name splash for us when we were putting this class together. We expect her to continue her success her at Georgia.”
Tardy also has a U.S. Open appearance on her resumé, competing in the 2014 event after winning a qualifier at Butler Country Club outside Pittsburgh. Tardy was medalist at the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior, the same year she posted wins at the Golfweek Junior Invitational, the Big I National Championship, the AJGA Arrowhead Junior and the Georgia Girls Championship. In 2014, her top finishes include a runner-up showing at the Kathy Whitworth Invitational and a third-place finish at the Thunderbird International Junior.
“Bailey came late to golf,” Brewer said. “She played soccer and a lot of other sports growing up but has really only been playing competitive golf for five years. She’s extremely athletic and probably one of the longest players in junior golf. That’s a big part of her game. She’s been working hard on her short game too. Bailey was the first of the class to commit. Her commitment, like Rinko’s at the time, made a statement that UGA golf is back. I think playing other sports really helped her competitive spirit. To play a U.S. Open gave her valuable experience that she needs. We truly believe her best golf is ahead of her. On top of everything Bailey brings, she’s also a local kid. Her whole family are Georgia fans so she understands the pride of wearing a Georgia ‘G.'”
With only one senior – Rocio Sanchez Lobato – on this year’s roster, the Bulldogs should be among the deepest teams in the nation in 2015-16.
“We have a great nucleus in place right now and players who we know are going to continue to tribute next year with the seniors, juniors and sophomore we will have back next season,” Brewer said. “You add the three signees and we’re going to have a lot of depth. It’s exciting and will be fun to see how they adapt to college golf.”