One of the great aspects about the sport of disc golf is the many ways you can reach the basket. Players will have to use every skill in their arsenal to find the perfect path, that optimal line to achieve their goal. A disc golf career is done in much the same way and is often constructed by one event at a time, putting in hard work, and adjusting from the results year after year. Every once in while you might look back to check your progress, but the trick is to always move forward.
One player that has had an unusual path to a disc golf career is 2013 Rookie of the Year, Holly Finley PDGA #51277. At the speed disc golf is expanding, fans are seeing the FPO fields get larger and larger with each big event. When Holly began to follow her passion in 2012 the field was a bit smaller. Beginning her disc golf career as a full-time model along with her outgoing nature seemed to rub some fans the wrong way initially. After seven years battling the road and finding a way to make disc golf her life, Holly is earning the respect of her competitors, and with hard work she’s gaining the reputation as a solid putter all around the green.
For every athlete there is that moment where they are introduced to the sport, and for Holly it was in 2011. “My cousin kept mentioning that he would play rounds with friends. I thought it looked pretty lame at the time. Fast forward to 2011, I moved to a new state and had a lot of free time on my hands and disc golf came to mind.” So what was it that got her hooked? “I love walking through the parks, seeing the flora and fauna and best of all, throwing things along the way.”
Although her game improved, she didn’t get noticed by her manufacturer Innova until 2012. Holly was asked to join the Ambassador team. “It was very exciting for me because I really enjoyed playing disc golf. I was out every day playing multiple rounds, throwing Innova discs, and taking hundreds of pictures and video.” One of her highlights that year was her trip to Cape Town, South Africa where she lived for 6 months. “I gave clinics to local schools and held a tournament with the help of the local Ultimate club.”
Any disc golfer that transitions from modeling to disc golf might not be accepted right away. I asked Holly if people have misconceptions of her as she’s made her passion of disc golf more of a priority in her life. “I still model a few times a week, but I no longer travel internationally. I think people assume a lot of things, but once they meet me in person and spend a few minutes joking around, they will see I’m a down to earth gal who loves disc golf and appreciates Grade-A sarcasm.”
Every player has their moment when they feel they have been welcomed into the community or perhaps earned their road badges. I asked Holly to describe her moment and she said, “The first was when I placed 7th at the 2014 Pro Disc Golf World Championships. I arrived four weeks early to practice the course non-stop. I played my heart out and beat a lot of big names. A top 10 finish at such a long, big-stage event proved to me that I have the skill necessary to play at an elite level.” She also mentioned her 2nd place finish at the 2018 United States Women’s Disc Golf Championships when she finished 2 strokes behind World Champion, Paige Piece. “Being that close to winning a Major has inspired me to play bigger stage events this year.”
Recently, Holly was promoted by Innova to their Champion team with one of the biggest perks being the custom “Tour Series” discs. Holly was able to choose the disc, plastic, weight, and stamp. A substantial portion of the each sale goes to the player’s touring season. “It’s quite the honor and I feel very blessed to be in this position.”
Holly Finley’s 2019 Tour Series disc
What was the moment like when Holly found out that she got promoted? “Innova sends out their contracts via email and I got butterflies in my stomach as I opened the email. I had received an offer from a competing manufacturer a few days earlier. After toiling over the decision, I decided I had worked a very long time for the Innova promotion and I didn’t want to pass it up.” Innova has guidelines in place for promotion into each level such as having a 930 rating and beating the biggest names and placing at the biggest events such as Worlds, and USWDGC.
Last year, Holly had some close finishes against some up-and-coming players such as Christine Jennings, Lauren Butler, and Hailey King.
Holly Finley, Christine Jennings, and Courtney Cannon
I asked Holly to talk about some of her competitors. “Christine Jennings is a talented member of Innova Team who recently got promoted to the crew level. She is dedicated to improving and I hope she can start touring full time. Lauren Butler can throw 400 plus feet and is already on tour full time. Hailey King is a fellow ginger, although she’d prefer to say she wasn’t. This girl has the skills necessary to compete at the top level.”
So what does the 2019 season have in store for Holly Finley? “For 2019 I want to become a World Champion. It’s my #1 goal and has been since I started competing. I would also like to win my first NT and major this year, cash in every event, and get promoted to Innova Star Team.”
Holly Finley’s disc golf pin
Holly Finley has a jam-packed 2019 as her PDGA schedule is already looking quite full. She has come a long way from her initial position as ambassador, and intends to make her mark this year in the FPO division against an ever-growing field. She has paid her dues on the road the last couple years and is hoping to make believers out of spectators and fans of disc golf this season. Will this be the year Holly Finley makes some big moves?