A win in this week’s Women’s British Open would be a life-changer for young Victorian Su Oh. Here, she reflects on what winning might mean and her journey so far as a professional golfer.
“It’s not the end goal,” says Su Oh. “It’s just the beginning.” It’s hardly the answer you expect when asking a professional golfer what winning means but it’s a pretty darn good one when you think about it.
With the Women’s British Open to begin this week at the Royal Lytham and St Annes course in north west England, winning will be a hot topic and Oh will be among those on the fringes of the discussion.
Oh is Australia’s fourth highest world-ranked player but has a pedigree better than her LPGA performance over the past two years indicates.
While Minjee Lee, runner-up this past week in the Ladies Scottish Open, will understandably be the Australian most commentators and fans are talking about ahead of the year’s fourth major, Oh is not without a chance.
A disastrous third round 80 last week cruelled any hope of a maiden LPGA title in Scotland but the 22-year-old will only be hardened by that disappointment.
Hitting back with an even par 71 Sunday shows she is made of stern stuff and while she won’t be pleased with her week at Gullane, nor will she let it seep into her play in England.
Good enough to be sharing fifth place through 36 holes last week confirms Oh is good enough to be a contender this week, especially playing a style of golf she genuinely loves.
“I think I prefer that kind of course than some of what we play in, say, Florida,” she says of links golf.
“I think it’s because I’ve never had trouble flighting the ball down. Maybe it’s because I’m from Melbourne but I can shape it aIl ways and flight it down easily.
“I’ve come second, third, fourth, fifth … now I just have to finish first.” – Su Oh
“But I think the difference (with links golf) is really around the greens and the short game … it’s more the finesse shots I think that are very different to what we play a lot in the US.”
Speaking during a three-week trip home to recharge the batteries ahead of last week’s event, Oh said she had changed her set makeup ahead of the two weeks in the British Isles.
“I’ve made up some driving irons to experiment with before I head over,” she said.
“I’m thinking it won’t be great to have a 24-degree hybrid in the bag with the way the wind can be. You don’t really want to be ballooning it up in the air.”
While she has never played there, Oh says she has seen the course at Royal Lytham and is expecting it to play difficult.
“We played the British amateur nearby when The Open was there in 2012 and I went along for one day to watch,” she says.
“I remember thinking it looked really hard, especially the bunkering. I think if you can stay out of the bunkers you’ll be on your way to having a good week.”
2018 has been a breakthrough year for Oh who feels she has played some of her best golf since putting a new set of irons in the bag in April.
After a horrible start to the year she made seven straight cuts, including two top-five finishes and a T17 at the US Women’s Open.
But the club switch was just one piece of the puzzle. Oh also split with coach of three years Cameron McCormick and teamed up with highly respected caddie Duncan French, who has previously looped for Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen, among others.
Having also now set up a base in Texas, life is more settled for Oh and the combined effect of all those changes is beginning to show.
“After Kingsmill (in May) I had a good solid few weeks in a row which hasn’t really happened in the past couple of years,” she says. “It’s been one good week then a missed cut.
“But I played good four in a row which was nice … I was exhausted by the PGA (first week of July) but I’d had only three days off since Hawaii in April.
“Starting from Kingsmill I played eight events in a row or something and that was way too much. I did that so I could come home but I know now how many tournaments is really good for me to play in. If I didn’t do that long stretch, I wouldn’t have known so it’s a trial and error thing.”
Of course, while she may be yet to taste success on the LPGA, Oh is no stranger to winning, having hoisted a significant trophy in just her second week as a professional back in 2015.
A week after bogeying the final three holes of the Vic Open in her first 72-hole outing as a pro, she birdied the final four at Royal Pines to win the Australian Ladies Masters.
“I can still remember the second shot I hit into 18,” she says. “I can see the ball flight and where it landed and the relief of it being a pretty easy two putt to win.
“It’s the most amazing feeling to be there and to do that. The adrenaline rush is just … amazing.”
RIGHT: Life is more settled for Oh after she set up a base in Texas. PHOTO: Getty Images.
Three years on and now a full-time member of the LPGA, Oh will tee up in her 18th major this week, another opportunity to notch a maiden LPGA title.
“We have 35 events a year so 35 chances to win,” she says.
“I’ve come second, third, fourth, fifth … now I just have to finish first.”
Which brings us neatly back to the topic of winning and what it might mean were she to achieve that goal this week.
“I don’t know what it would mean,” she says after a lengthy pause. “It’s just something I’m working toward and I really want it.
“I know it would mean a lot.”
And according to her own theory, it would also mean she’s just at the beginning.