You need a fair bit of patience to play golf. Regular sufferers of this correspondent’s scribblings probably need a good dollop of patience to read about it too.
As for Ryann O’Toole? Well, after 11 years on the LPGA Tour and 228 events, the Californian finally won her first title on the circuit in last season’s Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open at Dumbarnie Links. Good things do come to those who wait.
The venue may have changed – we’re at Dundonald Links for this week’s showpiece – but that feelgood factor remains. Now, the 35-year-old just needs to fathom out a way to win again. It ain’t easy in this game.
“Once I broke the seal, I thought I would win again and again and it would be easier,” admitted O’Toole, who has posted two top-10 finishes since making her breakthrough 12 months ago. “But that’s not the case. I’m still trying to figure out how to get back there.”
In the jubilant aftermath of her success last year, O’Toole revealed that she had actually been pondering retirement after chiselling away at the coalface for so long, she could’ve become a member of the United Mine Workers of America. Winning, of course, changed those plans.
“I’d been busting my butt trying to get a win and it wasn’t coming,” she reflected. “So, when it finally happened, it felt so good. There was no need to stop and now I don’t need to feel deflated or feel like golf beat me. Retirement is on the back burner.”
A victory in the home of golf is always special. Achieving it on a links course conquered a few demons too after an eye-opening introduction to the seaside game at Royal Liverpool a decade ago.
“That was the first time I was ever terrified in golf in the sense that I just didn’t know where the ball was going,” she said with a chuckle as she looked back to that Women’s Open of 2012 on a particularly boisterous Wirral peninsula . “It was a wake-up call and I knew I needed to figure out this style of golf. Did I think that the Scottish Open was ever going to be my first win? No. But it was. And I feel so proud to be the Scottish Women’s champion. I would take it over any event. Scotland lives and breathes golf and I feel it too.”
O’Toole played in the Women’s Scottish Open the last time it was held at Dundonald Links in 2017. The Ayrshire venue has changed a bit since then, with a spanking new clubhouse replacing the world’s longest serving portakabin, while the event’s prize fund has rocketed this year by 33 per cent to $2 million. “I feel like in 2017, it was one of our smaller events,” admitted the reigning champion. “It was one of those you looked at and said, ‘I might need to take it off’. Now, it’s one you want to play. They definitely elevated it. It feels like a big tournament. The set-up, the venue, the purse increase, it’s phenomenal.”
Moving along into more contentious territory, O’Toole was asked to give her views on LIV Golf becoming involved in the women’s game. At last week’s Amundi Evian Championship, the LPGA Tour commissioner, Mollie Marcoux Samaan, admitted she would “take the call” from LIV heid honcho Greg Norman to hear what he had to offer. In the halls of power at the men’s professional tours, of course, Norman is persona non grata. So, what if he extended LIV’s cash-sodden tentacles towards the LPGA players?
“I think the PGA Tour didn’t do it right in regards to possibly sitting down and having a conversation with LIV and seeing what the possibilities were of coming together,” said O’Toole of the fierce division in the men’s game. “I think they created a very big void with each other, and it’s creating a lot of turmoil. I hope that if LIV decides to approach the LPGA to create something or want to create something, then maybe we can do it together instead of it being this taboo thing or this big issue where players are going to have to choose.”
For the time being, though, O’Toole is savoring being the LPGA Tour’s latest defending champion. “It’s nice seeing my face on random pieces here and there,” she said of the promotional paraphernalia. “And I’d love to be the champion again.”