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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

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In Sports

Model and disc golfer Holly Finley hits the fairway on her off days.

In Sports

Finley has modeled for designers like Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Jil Sander, Donna Karen and Louis Vuitton.

In Sports

"I see myself as so many different characters I sometimes don't even recognize myself," said Finley.

In Sports

Finley hopes to extend her success and become a disc golf world champion.

Model of efficiency: From the runway to the fairway


Holly Finley is a transplanted Wisconsinite who seems to have a knack for finding her niche. Her profession is modeling. Her passion is disc golf. They coexist perfectly.

"With modeling I don't have to work every day so I'm lucky," said Finley. "It's just whenever people want to hire me, so I do have a lot of free time. When I'm not working, I'm golfing from sunrise to sunset and sometimes even in the dark."

Finley sashays from the runway to the fairway and excels in both worlds with a home base in Cambridge, southeast of Madison. Last summer, when the Tennessee native decided commuting to Chicago for most of her modeling gigs was a chore, she explored and embraced the surrounding area of Madison, deciding to hunker down in a small town environment that would provide serenity and proximity.

Unsure if she was in this relocation for the long haul, Finley rented out her home back in Nashville, where a return visit prompted her tenants to suggest she join them in hitting the links.

"I thought it sounded strange, I wasn't very good and I really didn't think much about it after that," said Finley. "In Wisconsin when the weather warmed up, I thought, 'What can I do by myself that is fun because I don't know anybody here?' Disc golf is fun and it takes several hours, it's free to play, so I went out and bought some used discs, went out to the course and started playing alone."

Her solo act didn't last long. Finley attracted other golfers who followed her form and asked her to join in. She morphed into playing in a weekly league and struck up friendships and mentors to improve her game.

"What's amazing about this sport is the people are really willing to share the knowledge," said Finley. "It's amazing when someone tells you something ever so slightly, like point your foot a certain way and turn your wrist another way, the next thing I know, I can throw the disc 100 feet farther than before.

"It's industry secrets, and some people are willing to share."

After her first four-month taste, Finley was hooked. But a business trip to South Africa temporarily stunted her growth in the sport. With no courses handy in and around Cape Town, Finley trekked four miles a day to throw in an abandoned field. Back in the States this past February, Finley played in her first tournament and began gobbling up first place hardware during her travels.

"It really takes practice and I hear professionals who are some of the top-rated players in the world out there all day, every day, playing golf," said Finley. "They'll be in their backyard two to four hours a day doing nothing, repetitive motions over and over until it becomes muscle memory and becomes automatic.

"That's what I'm trying to do and I'm also trying to play with really seasoned golfers who have a tight game with skills I can learn from."

Listed as an amateur but turning some heads on the Professional Disc Golfers Association rankings, Finley hopes her lightning-quick learning curve leads to a place among the sports elite.

"I'm still progressing really quickly and would hope within three years I could become a world champion," said Finley. "That might sound a bit unrealistic but that's what I'm going to work for. All it takes is practice, dedication, believing in yourself and support. I feel like I have all of those things and it's the perfect combination to make me a world champion someday."

Finley's drive to succeed was never in question, but her drive to kick start each hole wasn't up to par. After some tinkering and discussion with fellow players, it's the best aspect of Finley's repertoire.

"My drives went from 100 feet a few months ago to 300 feet," said Finley. "It's been a lot of fun watching myself progress in that department, and I'll go to the same courses I did last summer and throw it past my bench mark.

"It's just an amazing feeling knowing I have come so far so quickly. It's so easy to just pick up the sport and become good and even become great which is something you really can't say for a lot of other sports. People can play a sport on a recreational level but you really don't have an opportunity to become a world champion in five to ten years."

Finley now tours the United States seeking out her next challenge, squeezing in tournaments while she jet sets around the world modeling for designers like Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Jil Sander, Donna Karen and Louis Vuitton, to name a handful. If the back story on how she stumbled into playing disc golf isn't coincidental enough, try to grasp the karma of how Finley launched her international modeling career. Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)

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