The Untold Truth Of Holly Sonders - Nicki Swift (2024)

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The Untold Truth Of Holly Sonders - Nicki Swift (1)

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ByTodd JacobsandNataly Stayse/

Holly Sonders. If you're a fan of professional golf, there's a strong chance you know that name. After all, it belongs to one of the sport's most recognizable television personalities. And the path Sonders took in life is like something out of a movie. According to her Fox Sports bio, Sonders won her first golf tournament at the age of seven. She eventually received a scholarship from Michigan State University and went on to win more tournaments on their golf team, bringing home a Big Ten Conference championship in 2007.

Sonders graduated with a degree in journalism in 2009, and, two years later, she married her two passions by becoming a co-host on the Golf Channel's morning talk show "Morning Drive." So, is her golf game still there? "I really don't play anymore. I play with Oscar [De La Hoya] 'cause Oscar loves it," Sonders told the "Knockin' Doorz Down" podcast in 2021."I started when I was six and, you know, by the time I was 13 I was burned out."

She may not visit the golf course as much as her fanbase wishes, but what else do we know about the artist formerly known as Holly Niederkohr? Hop in the cart, and let's tee up the untold truth of Holly Sonders.

Holly Sonders was dating a certain football star

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In January 2019, Holly Sonders confirmed to her fans that she was dating Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury. "Couldn't be any prouder of this one," she wrote on Instagram in response to news of Kingsbury's Cardinals gig, adding two heart emojis. "Truly the best human being I know. Congratulations K. Let's. Go."

She followed it up on her now-private Twitter handle, writing, "The desert just got a whole lot hotter. Congratulations @KliffKingsbury, so proud of you." She continued, "He's the best. And we are a little past the crush part."

News that Sonders and Kingsbury were in a relationship came after a whirlwind couple of months for the football celeb. In November 2018, Texas Tech let Kliff Kingsbury go from his position as their head football coach, who'd maintained a 35-40 record over six seasons. However, early that December, he landed the coveted offensive coordinator position for the college football powerhouse USC Trojans, as reported by ESPN. But Kingsbury didn't stick with that gig for long, as, a little over a month later, he became the head coach of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. He landed himself a huge job and secured a new romance? Did Kingsbury find a genie's lamp sometime during the holiday season?

Say 'sectional qualifying' three times fast

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A lot of interesting things can happen on live television. A person can destroy their career, make things painfully uncomfortable, or, in Holly Sonders' case, make things hilariously awkward with a Freudian slip. During the FS1 2018 U.S. Open preview show, Sonders said "sexual qualifying" instead of "sectional qualifying," but she managed to keep her composure. To their credit, her two co-hosts, Shane Bacon and Brad Faxon, pretended they didn't hear it, or they were frozen in second-hand embarrassment.

Responding to a tweet containing a clip of the awkward slip-up, Sonders said the previous week had taken a toll on her, having had a stay in Alabama before traveling to Charlotte for another coverage.

Sonders then continued to poke fun at herself on Twitter. "SECTIONAL qualifying is complete! 'Sexual' qualifying isn't a thing...and I didn't have the time to make a joke about my mistake as we needed to get off the air 60 sec later. If Brad and Shane had even cracked a smile we wouldn't have made it through the segment," she wrote (via New York Post). "And if it were [an] actual thing," she added, "it would air at a very different time on a very different network!"

Holly Sonders got divorced in 2016

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Holly Sonders was previously married to sports television and radio host Erik Kuselias, but the couple split sometime in 2016. Per Deadspin, the pair reportedly started an affair when they co-hosted "Morning Drive" while Kuselias was still married to his first wife.

Although Sonders didn't speak publicly about her decision to divorce Kuselias, her comments on Twitter led us to believe the reasons behind the dissolution of their marriage were less than ideal. In response to a fan who idolized Kuselias on one of her posts, Sonders curtly replied, "I filed for divorce over a year ago...we have not been together in a very long time. Thanks."

The reason for their split was unclear, but Deadline reported that, during Kuselias' time at ESPN, multiple sources labeled him "the biggest d*****bag in the place," and he reportedly cheated on his first wife with his colleague Stephania Bell. He was also allegedly drunk during a "Monday" Night Football party and told a female ESPN employee, "I would like to f**k you." Take from that what you will.

She's friends with Donald Trump

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On July 4, 2014, Holly Sonders, dressed in an American flag bathing suit, participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.Regarding nominating the next person, synonymous with the challenge, Sonders said, "I call out my good friend, Donald Trump."

About two weeks before "The Apprentice" alum announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Trump Tower in Manhattan on June 16, 2015, Sonders posted a photo of herself with the future commander-in-chief, and the two were all smiles. "Looking through pictures from 2014...And I can say I genuinely enjoy my time with @realdonaldtrump," the Instagram caption read. "Great office visit in NYC. I think he's a very smart man (everyone has haters)."

"Everyone has haters?" We guess that's one way to say it. At the time of this writing, Sonders has 343,000 Instagram followers, but this post only has a little over 1,000 likes. That's quite the ratio. Not to mention, the comments section is, well, a dumpster fire.

Holly Sonders was ranked as one of the most beautiful women in golf

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In January 2017, Golf.com mentioned Holly Sonders in its annual list of beauties in the sport."Introducing @Holly_Sonders, one of the Most Beautiful Women in Golf for 2017! #MBW2K17," the publication announced on Twitter. That year marked Holly Sonders' fourth consecutive appearance on the list. In response to the title, Sonders tweeted, "Thank you again for including me in this years edition! Humbled."

Back In 2015, the photo shoot for golf's Most Beautiful Women took place at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Sonders gave a shout out to the former POTUS in a tweet with a picture from the shoot. Ah, her and Trump's friendship makes sense now. They both like golf!

While being acknowledged for her looks is flattering, Sonders believes that she brings more to the table than a pretty face. Speaking at a past interview, Sonders, who was addressing the mixed reactions that followed her transition into using her image to make bank (details on this later), said, "It took about a year to get rid of those followers and get like new followers who embrace it and understand, you know, a woman can be smart, a woman can be beautiful simultaneously."

Holly Sonders received backlash for her interview with Jordan Spieth

After about three years at the Golf Channel, Holly Sonders jumped ship to join Fox Sports in 2014. A year before, Fox Sports had struck a 12-year deal for the rights to broadcast the U.S. Open starting in 2015, so adding a golf pro like Sonders to their coverage team seemed like a win. But the whole situation turned out to be catastrophic. The network received heavy criticism for its technical problems and announcers' lack of thorough research (via The New York Times).

Sonders' interviewing skills were also called into question. She had an uneasy hug with three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, and a short chat with winner Jordan Spieth in which she asked,"Did you even bring a fifth outfit with you?" on the off chance that there was a playoff that Monday wasn't well received. Spieth replied that his sponsor, Under Armour, had him covered

Sonders fired back against the criticism on Twitter, writing, "And for those of u hating on my interview w/ Jordan..It's appropriate to end with a smile. He's the US Open champ! Lighten up folks." Her performance was allegedly so awful that the network reassigned Sonders to cover the NFL two months later, as USA Today's For the Win reported. Yikes.

Holly Sonders had a cameo on New Girl

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While still serving as a Fox Sports golf analyst, Holly Sonders landed a cameo on an episode of "New Girl," a comedy featuring actress Zooey Deschanel that aired on the Fox network in 2015. "Had so much fun filming on the set of @NewGirlonFox," Sonders tweeted in February 2015. The episode aired that April, right around Masters week, as Sonders later posted on social media. Fox Sports' official Twitter account joined in on the hype, as well, tweeting, "Don't miss our very own @holly_sonders on tonight's episode of @NewGirlonFOX at 9/8c!"

So, just what was Sonders' episode of "New Girl" about? Yep, you guessed it — golf! Well, kind of. The episode, called "Par 5," involved Deschanel's character, Jessica Day, participating in a charity golf tournament. Sonders played herself and reported on Day's abhorrent golfing skills (via Netflix). "I've never seen so many strokes taken on a single hole in all my life," she said. "This has got to be some kind of record."

Her move to the NFL sidelines sparked outrage

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After her reassignment to the NFL, Holly Sonders said in a statement, per Golf Week, "I look forward to continuing my relationship with Fox Sports as I transition into a studio role and am excited about the opportunities ahead of me."

But these opportunities might not have been ideal for everybody. To make way for Sonders, Fox Sports reportedly bumped veteran NFL sideline reporters Laura Okmin and Jennifer Hale, according to Sports Illustrated. During an episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" dealing with the sexism and ageism that female sports reporters face, Okmin addressed the situation but didn't mention Sonders by name. To correspondent Jon Frankel (via Sporting News), she shared that she was taken off games so that a younger reporter with less experience could get their shot.

Noting that she felt upset, Okmin said, "I worked very hard for this job. I knew this was coming. I knew the shelf life of being a woman on television and in this business. And all of a sudden, I think I was thrown by it."

Fox Sports dropped Holly Sonders (again)

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Three years after Fox Sports dropped her as a golf analyst, the network removed Holly Sonders from its golf telecasts altogether. Golfweek first reported the news in October 2018, including a statement by the channel that read, "Holly is a valued member of the Fox Sports family, and we're thrilled to continue working with her."

"I'm incredibly proud to have been a part of Fox Sports' USGA coverage," Sonders said of the decision. "The entire golf team has become like family, and I learned a lot working alongside them. I look forward to continuing my relationship with Fox Sports as I transition into a studio role and am excited about the opportunities ahead of me."

In an interview with the publication the following March, Sonders claimed the golf coverage at Fox was nothing like they'd aspired to because they were unable to secure enough PGA Tour rights. As of 2019, Sonders was an occasional host on "Undisputed" and "The Herd." She's since traded the small screen for digital media, where she offers video interactions with fans and virtual fitness and golf lessons for a price range of $200 to $600.Sonders also capitalizes on her image to make paid public appearances.

Her original pitch for Golf Channel was very bold

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Holly Sonders' beginnings on television were humble. She got her start as an intern on WBNS-10 TV in Columbus, Ohio, and worked on the Big Ten Network simultaneously.During that time, Sonders made a bold pitch to Golf Channel, one which she recollected on the "Playing a Round" podcast."The Memorial Tournament came, which is in Muirfield every year," Sonders recounted. "I went to one of the Golf Channel cameras at Muirfield, and I think I was 21, and I was like, 'You need to hire me.' I didn't even know who was on the other end of it."

Despite the audacious move, Sonders wasn't recruited immediately because she was inexperienced. Instead, she went on to work as a small-time reporter on KATV-TV in Little Rock, Arkansas.In 2011, Sonders' dream of joining Golf Channel finally came true. It took half a year for her to ease into her role, and after working for the network for two years, she landed several shows of her own, she expalined on the Omar Elatar podcast.

TV looks glamorous, but a lot goes on behind the scenes. On the most difficult part about the job, Sonders told NBC Sports, "Maintaining focus and reading/speaking, while someone else is talking in your ear (producer)."

She played multiple sports while growing up

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From the time Holly Sonders found her rhythm as a young golfer, she played with boys since there weren't that many girls embracing the sport."I was on the boys' golf team and set a school record in middle school," Sonders told the "Playing a Round" podcast.Back then, she added, chick golf dresses, shorts, and t-shirts hadn't made it to the market,so she had to wear loose-fitting clothing.

More fascinating than that is the fact that Sonders was an all-round athlete."I played boys' softball and baseball and everything was kinda all boys until high school," she continued. "I was an All-State basketball player. A lot of people don't know this. They just think, you know, golf was it."

Because she stood out in golf, Sonders could have easily built a career in the sport after her run at Michigan State University. The big question is, why didn't she? Per her conversation with the "Playing a Round" podcast, it came down to making a living.The chances of her being a starving athlete were high."I would have lived out of my car and then broke in like three days if I had tried to go on the Futures Tour back then," she said.

Holly Sonders has been open about getting work done

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Holly Sonders has always led an active lifestyle, one which she showcased on Golf Digest.She took a hiatusfrom exercise in 2023and returned to the gym in January 2024. Nevertheless, the former presenter isn't shy to admit the surgical work she's done on her body."I do get lots of surgical enhancements, I feel it's important to be honest and open about that," she partly wrote in a December 2023 Instagram post.

In her chat with the "Knockin' Doorz Down" podcast, Sonders revealed that she got her breasts done in preparation for her broadcasting career. "After you're a college athlete for so long, you just want to be a woman," she remarked. "I wanted to go to TV and I wanted to talk about sports instead because sports is my life. That's all I know."

Sonders has since had work done on her lips, skin, butt, and face. Given her preference for experts, it costs a fortune to look like she does. In a 2023 Q&A session with her Instagram followers, Sonders said she spent $2000 to $3500 per section to tighten her skin using laser treatment.

Her first date with Vegas Dave was at a strip club

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In late 2019, Holly Sonders began dating Dave Oancea, popularly known as Vegas Dave. When TMZ Sports asked how they first crossed paths, Sonders said, "I don't even know the real story. Like I said, our first date was at a strip club in Vegas, and that was that."Hardly a week had gone by when the confessed power couple found the perfect wedding destination: Cabo San Lucas. The Mexican city also made for the perfect place to propose.

The pair seemed to be going steady in August 2020 when Dave posted a picture of themselves gambling on Instagram with the caption, "I pick the winners she counts the money. 5-0 on baseball whales today. Just raking in the cash."In September of the same year, Sonders confirmed that they were still dating but living in separate places, in response to a New York Post article that included a quote from Dave. Sadly, the pair ended up splitting for good.

In a later chat with the "Dropping Bombs" podcast, Dave attributed their breakup to his busy schedule. "I didn't want her no more," he said."I could never give her attention 'cause all I wanted to do is f***ing work."

She got a tattoo of her boyfriend, Oscar De La Hoya

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After her split from Vegas Dave, Holly Sonders found love again in the arms of former professional boxer Oscar De La Hoya. In November 2021, Sonders professed her affection for De La Hoya in a way only she could: a conspicuous back tattoo done by his brother-in-law."This tattoo signifies the day you became The Golden Boy," Sonders wrote in an Instagram post. "The moment you won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics and looked up at your mother who had passed a few months prior."

Speaking to TMZ Sports, De La Hoya praised Sonders' gift as a thoughtful one that tramples every other gift he'd received in the past. In February 2022, he gave her one expensive present, too — a red Ferrari SF90 Stradale estimated to have cost him $1 million, per TMZ.

As of this writing, the couple is still together, and going by a sentimental post De La Hoya made on Instagram in honor of Sonders, things seem pretty serious. "Since the first day, we have never spent a night apart, not because of the simple reason that I love her and it really pains me to be apart," De La Hoya wrote in part. " Holly, my life with you is close to perfect."

Her Exposed Sportz League is a women-led brand

In 2023, Holly Sonders launched Exposed Sportz, a league where women compete with a small twist—bare-breasted—as she explained in an interview with Golf Digest's "The Loop" podcast."Who wouldn't wanna gamble on women's topless sports? I mean, I remember back during Covid when people were gambling on the weather," Sonders remarked."While some in the golf world have already let me know that they think it's crazy or it's a bad idea, or it's not gonna sell, you know, I can tell you after two days, it's doing all of that already."

Speaking to TMZ Sports about the venture, Sonders said it was made unique by the fact that it is led by her (a woman) and backed by a woman leader with a relevant portfolio of adult industry experience: "My lead creative is a female. And she's shot the covers for Playboy and worked for Vixen [Media Group] and knows what everybody is looking for."

So, what kind of sports is Sonders' league about? In a November 2023 Instagram trailer, six competitors in bikinis raced for the top spot on a slip-and-slide, and in another, they were playing cornhole. Exposed Sportz took things a notch higher with a two-person mud bath wrestling that made for catching entertainment.

She's 'numb' to critics

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There's no doubt that Holly Sonders has had a lot of detractors over the years. Sometimes she addresses them head-on as she did in an Instagram post of herself and Vegas Dave on a beach in Mexico.In another social media post on her Instagram Stories, Sonders, who was wearing a white one-piece swimsuit, wrote, "If you make a stupid ass comment about camel toe I'm just blocking you."

It may appear that hate comments bother her, but Sonders has learned not to take things personally."I've got criticism from every place in the entire world and it keeps coming every single day," she shared during her appearance on "The Loop" podcast, adding that she'd been boxed into the television image she had in her early twenties without any openness to her evolution.

"After 15 years of this, I am numb to it." Sonders declared. According to her account, people only dislike her online, but when she's out in the real world, she rarely encounters hatred.

She's bad at cooking

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When it comes to making a meal, Holly Sonders prefers to stay on the sidelines, as she disclosed in a YouTube chat with Golf.com. In the Q&A session, Sonders was asked what she's not good at, to which she replied, "Cooking. Oh good God. That's so bad."When the outlet gave her the choice between eating 20 hot chillis or getting in the kitchen to wine and dine her fans in a game of "Would You Rather," Sonders picked the second option, even though she made it clear that both alternatives were a disaster in the making. "I'll do best. I'm not any good at cooking but I'll do my best," she said.

What's her go-to meal? You may ask. Sonders told NBC Sports she loves having cupcakes. As for her favorite drink,Sonders is surprisingly ateetotaler. In an October 2020Instagram post, she wrote in part, "I rarely drink. But when I do..."

The Untold Truth Of Holly Sonders - Nicki Swift (2024)

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