Boonsboro Country Club members have seen a new face around the golf course since the middle of May. Jillian Drinkard spends her days mentoring girls in the club’s PGA Junior League program, providing lessons to others and playing a round or two with members.
Drinkard isn’t exactly a new face to those who are familiar with the Bedford County course. She previously interned on Aaron Marks’ staff the summer following her freshman year at Methodist University, and she recently competed in her fourth Donna Andrews Invitational golf tournament.
What’s different this time for the Appomattox native is she has been hired on staff at Boonsboro to give the country club a woman’s voice on the course. Drinkard is the third woman to work on the golf staff in the country club’s 99-year history. Marshall Langhammer was the first woman on staff when she served as the LPGA professional for 18 months in the late 1990s, and teaching professional Berenice Fedder spent two years at Boonsboro and retired one decade ago.
It was a no-brainer for Marks to add Drinkard to the fold.
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“I’ve been trying to find a female assistant for about three years now. We’ve been trying to find one just because it makes a diverse workforce, which is what we’re looking for here,” Marks said. “… She’s very good at golf, she’s an incredibly nice person, I think she has a bright future, I think she’s going to be a good teacher.”
The popularity of women’s golf has steadily increased in the Lynchburg area over recent years. The Donna Andrews Invitational, in its fourth year, had a record number of entries, with players from India, Singapore and the midwestern part of the United States applying to play. More area high school golf teams featured female players this past fall season.
The female clientele at Boonsboro has steadily grown as well, especially in the PGA Junior League as girls as young as 13 dream of playing the sport competitively in the future.
“Because of where women’s golf is headed, such a big avenue now for women in golf, … just having a female face here, just to have that connection, whether it be teaching or just going out and playing, I think it’s huge,” Drinkard said.
Drinkard technically is completing her final internship to finish her PGA Golf Management program at Methodist. It is a seven-month internship that will allow her to graduate in December. Even though it is qualified as an internship, Marks has hired Drinkard on the staff so she has a job once she completes her program.
“She’s here as long as she wants to be here,” he added.
“The PGM program was everything. Obviously Methodist University is one of the best in the nation, it’s one of the oldest as well. It just kind of makes you think of golf in a different light in a way,” Drinkard said. “It’s not just about playing; there’s just so much to it, there’s different avenues in golf that you can go down to, and to me it’s just the people that you meet, the connections you make, the relationships that you build. I think that’s what the PGM program has given me more than anything.”
Drinkard brought all the qualifications necessary to be a slam-dunk hire for the staff at Boonsboro. She concluded an illustrious four-year playing career at Methodist with a slew of accolades, highlighted by being named the 2021 Division III national women’s golf player of the year.
Drinkard also was a four-time All-American, a four-time Academic All-American and the 2019 Division III national freshman of the year, and she led the Monarchs to the 2021 Division III team national championship.
“If you would have told me my freshman year that I would have ended with all of those accolades, I honestly would have told you, ‘I don’t know. No way,’” she said. “I continually worked hard every season, in and out of season, and just having a great staff at Methodist. I am honestly truly blessed to be able to play golf every day and do what I love. It’s a really good feeling.”
She also was The News & Advance’s All-Area golfer of the year for the 2017-18 season after leading Appomattox to the Class 2 state championship.
“It’s just unbelievable,” her father, Steven, said of all she has accomplished.
Drinkard spent the summers after her first three years of college interning at different golf courses. She worked at Boonsboro after her freshman year; the Patterson Club in Fairfield, Connecticut, following her sophomore year; and spent the summer of 2021 interning at Highlands Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina.
Those internships allowed her to still play competitive golf. She is one of a handful of players who have participated in all four of the Donna Andrews Invitational, and she made time to play in the Virginia State Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur Championship.
Drinkard is slated to play in the VSGA Women’s Amateur that begins Tuesday and also will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur on July 11 at Salisbury Country Club in Midlothian.
Marks has encouraged Drinkard, and all of the members of his staff, to play competitively.
“Aaron has been so great about just allowing me to still be competitive and play golf and practice. He said it’s just super important for all the professionals on staff just to be able to still practice and keep our game up because when we go and play with members, that’s what they want to see,” Drinkard said. “They want to see good golf. I think for me that’s a huge factor here. We’re busy, but not super busy like we would be at a bigger, well-known club, so I enjoy that. Just getting to know the members so well. I just really enjoy it here.”
Drinkard plans on potentially pursuing a professional playing career once she has completed her PGM program. If the playing career doesn’t pan out, she will apply to become a PGA professional and has said she would consider a coaching role.
“She’s got a bright future in this career,” Marks said. “She may even try to make a go of it professionally just playing on tour. I would absolutely encourage her to do that, too, to give that a shot if that’s what she wants. She should give it a shot, especially when you’re just out of college because it’s easier to do it now than 10 years from now.”
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