The lost months of Beth Lillie’s junior season at the University of Virginia were spent back home in Fullerton, California, in front of a net strung between two trees in her back yard. She putted on carpet. Golfers everywhere have known this drill in 2020.
Lillie, however, had a mature mantra: “My game is my game, I’m not going to lose it just because I can’t be out on a golf course.”
Nearly four months have passed since Lillie last teed it up with Virginia at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate. In her return to competition this week at the Donna Andrews Invitational, Lillie found herself on top. The mantra proved true.
Scores: Donna Andrews Invitational
East Coast golf has blown Lillie’s mind. Perhaps more accurately, one course in particular. While spending some time with friends in Philadelphia earlier this summer, California native got a chance to tee it up at both Aronimink Golf Club and Pine Valley, an ultra-private golf gem that tops the Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list.
“Just crazy, out-of-my-mind awesome,” Lillie said of the latter.
Asked for more context, Lillie offered this: “Even if you’re having a bad round, you’re having a good day.” But Lillie had a good day, firing 68 there.
Lillie found golf’s hallowed ground to be good prep for the week at Boonsboro Country Club in Lynchburg, Virginia. Lillie fired rounds of 73-69-67 to win at 7 under. That was six shots better than runner-up Becca DiNunzio, who will be a sophomore at Virginia Tech.
“I’ve been striking it well for a little bit now and practicing at Pine Valley and other great courses, it makes you want to miss small and I think I did a good job of that at Boonsboro,” Lillie said. “The greens are the teeth of the course for sure.”
For a long time, Lillie was able to base her game on length, knowing she’d have wedges into greens. She’s recently focused more on placement – being accurate with those short irons and wedges in her hand. This week was the first time she’d seen Boonsboro, a classic layout in Central Virginia. She played one practice round the day before the event.
“My first round was kind of like a second practice round,” she said. “I learned a lot about the whole course.”
Lillie didn’t have a single double-bogey in 54 holes at Boonsboro, and ultimately won on the strength of a final-round 67 that included an eagle on the third hole. She drove it through the fairway and into the left rough, hit 3-wood to 12 feet and holed the downhill putt.
DiNunzio had just birdied her first three holes, so Lillie felt she needed to answer.
“I started with two pars and feeling not in the driver’s seat,” Lillie said. Three closing birdies on the back nine, including one at No. 18, greatly helped her cause.
Lillie’s game has gained another dimension as she’s played more golf on the other side of the country from her Southern California home. Often, she has noticed, East Coast courses have a bigger and grander feel, as if the course truly fits into the place carved out for it. Sometimes golf in Southern California, she says, can feel squeezed into a city or onto the side of a hill.
“It gives you a different feeling,” she said of the courses she’s experienced since branching out in the game and making a cross-country move for college golf.
Lillie played her way into the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She missed the cut that week, but it remains and important part of her story.
“I was 16 when I played and was so nervous I couldn’t even think,” she said.
What sticks with her most from that week came from her dad. Have fun, he said. She would play well if she had fun.
“I think that’s something I carry with me every round.”