An Interview With: Jill McGill
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we're happy to have Jill McGill with us today. She's a two-time USGA champion having won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Women's Amateur. She's a native of Denver, so Jill welcome home.
JILL McGILL: Thank you, Rhonda. It's good to be home, and Denver is showing a lot of support for the tournament already and it's great to see some of my family and old friends, and I am just glad to be back.
JILL McGILL: Throughout my career I pretty much traveled by myself, so it's going to be a new experience for me having so many people that I know around. My housing out on Tour always comes out and watches me play and individuals here and there, but this is going to be a new experience for me.
JILL McGILL: Well obviously the rough is a lot different than anything that I had ever played growing up, with exception to when they were getting the course ready for the PGA, and the men's U.S. Amateur. The course layout is the same as I remember it. I approach the holes a little bit differently having a different perspective on what I am trying to accomplish rather than hit my driver and not care where it goes, get up and hit it the next time. This is a tournament of the fewest mistakes, and the rough is mainly the biggest difference.
JILL McGILL: The rough is not -- the rough is thicker now than it was when I was here a month ago. When I was here a month ago it was -- this rough is thick and now it's longer also. So a month ago when it was an inch shorter however long it was, it was still very challenging to hit it out. Now that it's longer and I don't know if they are going to mow it or not. The course sets up where you don't have to have a tremendous amount of length, so the rough is your penalty if you don't hit it straight, with the exception of 18. 18 is a beast for a par 4.
JILL McGILL: Well, it was playing very difficult. 18 was playing very difficult today. I hit driver, 7-wood into there. We had a breeze into our face, playing very long on the second shot into that uphill. It's a very elevated green, it's not easy to hole and it's very slopey. So in a way, if it was a par 5, somebody else makes it for an exciting finish. Par 4, it's a very challenging par 4. One of the most difficult par 4s that we encounter on tour.
JILL McGILL: I think you try to hit the lowest score you can on the hole so it doesn't matter if it's a 4 or a 5. I always kind of feel that way with any hole that they say should it be a par 4 or 5. If it's a short par 5, you are still trying to make 4, playing it as a long par 4, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
JILL McGILL: I should have, no, but no, I have been a Bronco fan ever since I was a kid. I grew up going to the games. My dad would take the three kids. We were there when Elway came along. Spent a lot of time in the blizzards, watching the crazy guy with the barrel that's naked underneath, walking around zero degrees.
Q. Speaking of clinics, going back some years, I don't know the exact story, wasn't it true that Jay Sigel pulled you out of a crowd here or somewhere in this area, then you took part in a junior clinic?
JILL McGILL: Jay Sigel was doing, I can't remember exactly what it was. I think I was probably 13 or 14, they were doing an on-course clinic and this was -- I have to get my facts straight. He eventually turned pro. This was before that. He was the Amateur of all time and came here to do something and I can't recall what it was. I was just a brat running around at 14. He did on the second hole, pulled me out to hit a shot and I was so nervous I hit the green; I was all excited, yeah. So, I don't know, I think it was a 5-, or 6-iron. I can't remember what it was. It was with his club. All I remember is that club was so heavy I was just glad to make contact.
JILL McGILL: I don't remember. I mean, I have a bad memory for stuff like that. My parents have clippings of things like that. I have never been one that collects it myself. They do most of that or they did until I turned pro.
I don't think so. I think the only advantage is maybe being in shape because the altitude plays a little bit a part of that. You have to make sure you drink enough water. Knowing how to handle the altitude when I have come back for trips to see my family, just knowing how to manage it really.
Q. You said that the rough is higher here, but you would think that your experiences from being around here so much would add or help you this week? Do you think that's true and if so, what parts do you think might be helpful?
JILL McGILL: Well, I think any time you play a golf course a lot when you have been on that course, maybe it's sets up to your eye a little bit better you can see the shots you have seen, how they react on the greens. When I was here a month ago, you know, it kind of came flooding back to he me, which way the greens break, what the ball does when it lands on the green, which way it releases, where the best spot is to come into the green. So anytime you play you have played a golf course that much, I think you have a little bit of an advantage. With the rough as penal as it is, you are going to have to hit the fairways. So unless I can position the ball where I want to position it, come tournament time, then all of the advantage goes out the window.
JILL McGILL: I think some girls are going to go for it, definitely. I use driver off the tee one time 10 yards short of the rough, but there are some girls that definitely have the length to do it. I think it going to be fun to watch. I hope they do go for it, Laurie Davies, Sophie Gustafson - she's in the field? Michelle Wie, all those girls have the length to it, depending on where that pin is. It's not bad when you get right back down there in the front, particularly if the pin is in the middle or the back, you can hit some chip shot that's going to release there. If the pin is on the very, very front, it makes it a little bit harder.
JILL McGILL: Personally I think Annika is the best story in golf right now what she's doing and the play that she's had up until this point this year, and going back to last year is unbelievable. She's in a league of her own. If there was somebody on the PGA TOUR that was playing as well and as mentally tough as she's been in the last year, they would be pouncing on him out on the PGA TOUR.
Her game is unbelievable. She hasn't missed any shots, and you will notice in the last ten months or so she's starting to make a lot of putts and every highlight I watch of her she's making 20-footers, 30-footers, 15-footers. She's draining them from everywhere. She's just in a zone that you see an athlete get into once in a decade, or however often they came along, which is not very often.
MODERATOR: As a member of the tour playing in some, I am sure, most of the same championships tournaments that she plays in, have you noticed a swell in attendance or anything to sort of a feel, a different atmosphere?
JILL McGILL: I think Annika has contributed a lot to people taking interest in our tour, but it's not just Annika, there are so many great stories like Michelle Wie you have Paula Creamer, who is a young American and you know, Americans love to pull for Americans. It's great that she's going out there and she's had such a great year. Cristie Kerr, Natalie Gulbis. So much depth on our tour and so much personality and there are so many stories that our tour has and there's a lot of really, really good golf going on out there, and just because Annika is beating us by four shots a round she's in another zone right now. And what she's accomplishing, I mean, I want to go out and beat her, but what a great story she is. She is able to continue what she's doing. She's said that the Slam is her goal. That's the toughest thing.
Last year at the U.S. Open she played a great tournament she had a great week but somebody played better. That's the game of golf; you can be the best player, you can be in the zone, you can be hitting unbelievable shots, and that week somebody is just a little bit better than you, and there goes the Slam.
Q. Granted the media has been asking Michelle Wie a lot of questions about possibly playing on the PGA TOUR. As a member of the LPGA Tour and Michelle is young and while she's accomplished some, she really hasn't accomplished what Annika has. What is your feeling as an LPGA member that already this is part of her discussion pretty much on every tour stop and what has she really truly accomplished right now?
JILL McGILL: I think that Michelle has proven herself. She's, what, 15 years old. She's finished second a couple weeks ago at LPGA. I don't know how many Top 10s she's had in our majors. She's proven that she can compete with the best women golfers in the world, and if she feels as though her goal is to play against the men and play on the PGA TOUR, who am I to say no? If that's what you want to do, I wish her the best of luck. I hope she does accomplish it, because I think that she does nothing but good things not only for the women, but also for the men. I think it draws more attention to them. I think it draws a lot of attention to our tour. And I get a little tired of people saying, oh, you know, her aspirations are too high.
Q. On that same note, some critics would say that since she hasn't won amateur events, she's really not a complete player. Today David Leadbetter was saying he thinks he goes a long way for her to finish second in an LPGA event than to win an amateur event. Just want to get your thoughts on that.
JILL McGILL: Well, it's interesting because I look at my amateur career and my wins have all come in matchplay and she has had more success in stroke-play, and you know that might have a little bit to do with it. I would consider myself a much better match player. I don't know if it's because it's mano y mano, you know, but she has learned the game of golf to play stroke-play, to play out here in the tournaments out here on the LPGA Tour, out here on the PGA TOUR, whatever she wants to do, she doesn't play a lot of matchplay that's what most of the amateur tournaments are. She has an unbelievable amount of pressure on her when she goes into those tournaments.
I mean, you know, you might want to think about her and ask those questions three or four years from now when she's still playing the matchplay event, and she still hasn't won. But I mean she's 15 years old, so, it's easy for all of us to forget that mentally she's at that age, but physically and talent-wise she's much older than that.
Q. With Mr. Votaw carrying the LPGA to the heights that he did when he was commissioner, what do you see as new challenge and opportunities and growth for the LPGA with a new commissioner and over the next two to five years?
JILL McGILL: Well, I am not on the executive board, so I don't know exactly what goes on behind close doors. I think in the next two to five years I know what I would like to see, which is a big push in our marketing department because we have a fabulous product. We have a lot of great golf going out on the golf course. There are tons of great personalities. And I think that we just need to brand ourselves a little bit better, so people are aware of that. It's exciting too watch. People can relate to our games. And it's something where people can come out and be personable and have a lot of interaction with somebody they enjoy and aspire to be like. I think our tour is -- I think you are going to see our tour grow in purse size. I think you are going to see a lot more younger players start coming out. You have seen that with Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis left school early, Cristie Kerr left school early, which you know, if they have got the game for it, I don't see why they won't do that. I would love to see it become a powerhouse in sports.