Being a professional athlete takes immense focus and determination — traits that pro golfer and defending champion of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Jill McGill is harnessing to take on a challenge of another type: raising awareness about ovarian cancer. Her motivation? Two of the people whom she holds most dear.
“My sister is a survivor of ovarian cancer. And one of my lifelong besties is currently fighting a very aggressive form of ovarian cancer,” Jill shared. A professional golfer who has won three USGA (United States Golf Association) championships, Jill is using her platform to inform others about ovarian cancer and OCRA’s efforts to fight the disease.
“When speaking with OCRA, I’ve learned more about the incredible research they do — not only helping to find cures, but also finding ways to empower women with their health through spreading the word about proactive measures that can be taken to dramatically lower chances of developing this brutal cancer,” Jill noted.
The golf champion is committed to amplifying our organization’s work. She will be handing out free ball-markers featuring her signature and a special QR code leading to the OCRA website to fans during her upcoming matches this summer, including the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach July 5-9, and the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in Portland August 24-27, for example. Jill has also put the OCRA logo on her golf bag, for additional exposure.
At most of these events, Jill’s sister is right by her side, acting as her caddie. (Fans may also spot Jill’s 11-year-old daughter, Bella, sporting teal-colored nails to match her mother’s special tournament manicure.)
“Shelley is a tireless worker that resulted in her becoming a world-class athlete, not to mention the best athlete in our family,” Jill said of her sister. In addition to serving as Jill’s caddie, Shelley O’Keefe is a member of the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association of America) and a golf instructor. She is also a former Division 1 soccer player and past member of the United States Freestyle Ski Team. “Shelley is an opportunity provider and seeker for young, aspiring golfers and also a tremendous supporter of dreams. We are fortunate to be very close as sisters and colleagues,” Jill shared.
Shelley’s ovarian cancer diagnosis in February 2021 impacted Jill profoundly. “Her overall experience has challenged me to soften, take a beat, and allow myself to simmer in emotion that is often uncomfortable. On the other end, there has been more clarity of ‘the important things in life.’ I know this sounds very cliche, but it is true.”
That diagnosis also heightened Jill’s awareness of health and spurred her to actively champion OCRA’s work. She hopes that her actions will, in turn, inspire others in the golfing community to take up the cause. As a member of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association), Jill is looking to raise an army of supporters within the organization. “They are all go-getters and doers. I’m confident more troops will be curious and, in turn, will also be happy to spread the word.”
At the core of it all, Jill hopes her efforts can be of benefit to the ovarian cancer community. “Personally, I have always been a person that ‘keeps on keeping on,’ and oftentimes I haven’t allowed myself to fully emotionally comprehend something like Shelley’s cancer,” Jill explained. “I don’t pretend to know what [ovarian cancer patients] are going through. I would just like people to know I’m very sorry they are having to fight the fight and I want to help in whatever capacity.”
OCRA profiled Jill’s sister, Shelley, in 2022. Learn how Shelley O’Keefe and her husband, Kelly, dealt with Shelley’s ovarian cancer diagnosis, and their commitment to helping find a cure.
Hear Jill McGill Speak About Her Ovarian Cancer Initiative
Listen to a conversation between Jill McGill and Sports Byline USA’s Rick Tittle, in this segment of Titillating Sports from June 19, 2023.
About Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance
Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) is the largest ovarian cancer organization in the world, and the largest funder of ovarian cancer research outside of the federal government. In 2023, OCRA made the largest annual research investment in its history, awarding $7 million to brilliant scientists who are working to defeat this disease.
We fight ovarian cancer from all angles — in the lab, on Capitol Hill, and through innovative programs that support gynecologic cancer survivors and their families from the moment of diagnosis, and beyond. Learn more about what makes OCRA different, and how you can help.