Not many Americans have won more national titles than Hollis Stacy. Only seven, in fact, and that list includes Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, JoAnne Carner and Jack Nicklaus. Stacy, 66, excelled at the big moments. Of her 18 career LPGA titles, four were majors.
She’s the only player to win three U.S. Girls’ Junior titles (1969, 1970, 1971), and they came in consecutive years. Tiger Woods matched the feat decades later (1991, 1992, 1993). Stacy went on to win three U.S. Women’s Opens, clinching the title in 1977, 1978, 1984.
Stacy grew up in Savannah, Georgia, the fourth-oldest of 10 children. Six of the Stacy kids played golf and her mother, Tillie, was a USGA committee member. Hollis and her sister Martha Leach join Margaret and Harriot Curtis as the only sisters to win USGA titles.
Golfweek recently caught up with Stacy, in the run-up to what would’ve been the third edition of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. At the inaugural championship in 2018, Stacy played in the first group alongside Carner and Sandra Palmer. Next week’s event was canceled to due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
|9||Robert T. Jones Jr., Tiger Woods|
|8||Jack Nicklaus, JoAnne Gunderson Carner|
|7||Ellen Port, Anne Quast Sander, Carol Semple Thompson|
|6||Glenna Collett Vare, Hollis Stacy|
|5||Jerome D. Travers, Hale Irwin, Jay Sigel, Nathan Smith|
I know you won a big playoff against Amy Alcott to win your third U.S. Girls’ Junior title. What do you remember about that first one?
I played in five Juniors. Actually, the most important one was the one where I made a complete fool of myself when I was 14 and I lost in the playoff. First hole I didn’t get off the ground and I walked back and I cried and I decided that I never want to be humiliated in my life like that ever again. I worked hard that next summer and the next spring. I won the North & South, the Georgia Amateur and then I won the U.S. Junior at Brookhaven (Dallas).
Do you mean you literally didn’t get the ball off the ground in that playoff?
Literally. They all felt sorry for me. In the playoff I walked up and there was Pat Bradley with her tour bag and she was 17. At 14, a 17-year-old, you know how big they are. She was on a pull-cart. … I didn’t make it. There were seven of us, and I was the first one out. It was the worst day of my life. You’ve let your family down and your state and your city and you’re so embarrassed. And then I had to face my mother!
What was the best part of being part of such a large family?
We all had a great sense of humor. We all got along really great. It was complete chaos. We were raised by great parents, very funny. My parents raised us with sports, golf, swimming, tennis. We all watched all the golf on our black-and-white tv. We grew up near Augusta, so we were all able to go to Augusta and watch. That was a big influence in my life.
Six of us played. I didn’t even know what a matched set of clubs was until I went to my first national event and the pro was too embarrassed to send me off – I had a mishmash of mishmash. My friend’s mom, who was very short, I had her shoes. I didn’t know what a golf glove was. Golf balls, as long as they were round. We would chop (the clubs) down. I didn’t have my first matching set until I was 14.
What do you remember about your first trip to Augusta?
I was 10 or 11 and I was one of those little rug rats seeking autographs. … My pro Matt Warren he had indoctrinated into me that the best players to watch were the Wilson staff people. So I watched Julius Boros and Sam Snead. Julius Boros, I loved his rhythm, so I adopted his rhythm, which was just beautiful.
I did go to the (LPGA) Titleholders when it was at Augusta. My mom took me there. I was, I think, 11. I remember Barbara Romack took her time and asked me how my game was. That was just the coolest thing. I’ve told that story many times. She was so wonderful and so sweet, and it just means a lot to a little girl that a pro would say that. I remember watching Donna Caponi and Sandra Post walk across the practice tee. I met a lot of the pros. I was very shy.
For youngsters who have a lot of success as you did, what’s your best advice for transitioning to the next level? Any pitfalls they should try to avoid?
Swing teachers are great, but eventually you have to learn how to play the game. I have fallen into that trap. The swing does not get you into the hole. … You have to learn how to manage your game, know your limitations, accept your limitations and learn how to play the game. Finding the perfect swing can be a little blinding to the real purpose of the game.
What was your greatest win?
My greatest win was probably my win at Salem (1984 U.S. Women’s Open) because I never really led the event until Amy doubled and Rosie bogeyed the last hole. I had to really concentrate on not being down on myself the last two days and just go forward, go forward, tee it up, one shot at a time. I really worked hard at being in the present. … I did manage to hole an eagle on the 13th hole. I was really proud of that one victory. I know it was a really tough loss for Amy but she definitely got back at me – we’re definitely square.
I was seven behind with 13 holes left.
What was your toughest loss?
Not winning the Dinah. I was leading the whole time and Sally Little shot 65 the last day. It was hard to take the club back.
What did you ask JoAnne Carner after the second round of the 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Open?
For two days I kept looking at her putting from 6 feet in. God! I was looking at her stroke. I kept looking, what are you doing? Toward the end of the second round I asked her, give me what you’re doing, because I knew she wasn’t playing the next two rounds. … I missed a lot of short 4- or 5-footers and she made them all. She was taking her thumbs off the grip.
How much golf do you watch on TV and is there a swing or a player that you’re particularly keen on?
I love Nelly. She and I play at the same club (Concession). She was putting and she had five putters on the putting green. I I looked at her and I said, what is this? She’s like well, she was very cute, she goes, well, my putting. I said, oh I know what you’re doing. You are trying to win, and you’re not going through your routine, which I see, you need to really work on your routine, your rhythm. I gave her a couple drills, a couple mental things.
I said so what’s going on? She said, well, I’ll win one day. I looked at her and in my meanest pretend voice, I said to her, and she’s quite adorable, you will never, ever say that again!
You will say, I will win when I’m ready.
So this was the week before she won.
I went to the bathroom at 2 a.m. She’s in Taiwan. She had a three-stroke lead. I gave her a drill, and the drill was, I don’t (just) want you to shoot 62. I want you to shoot 62, then a 59, then a 55. I want you to do it three times. I want you to birdie every hole. She did that in her dreams before she went to bed. She (goes out and) birdies like the first four holes. Here I am at 2 a.m. on the phone looking it up. Oh my god!
Did you visualize like that a lot when you were playing?
I worked with a hypnotist toward the end of my career and it actually worked. It was like god, this is easy.
Will you play next year in the Senior Women’s Open?
Oh yeah, I’m good for another 50,000 with my new shoulder. I got a total shoulder replacement… I am religious with my rehab. it’s not easy, but I’m hopeful. My therapist said I will regain 90 percent flexibility, and I said my golf pro, (brother-in-law) John Leach, always wanted me to shorten my swing.