For her top-10 finish, O’Toole earned a payday of $81,915 and an exemption into the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis.
“It feels good to contend and to be in the top 10,” said O’Toole of San Clemente, Calif., who was also a contestant last year in the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Sandals Resorts” show. “It’s a cool feeling, and for my first Open, I’ll take it.”
Players in last week’s Open struggled with five lightning delays and suspensions. It was a week that required patience and fitness. O’Toole was forced to play 32 holes on Friday, four holes on Saturday, 32 holes on Sunday, and four holes on Monday to complete the championship.
“The on‑and‑off play was hard, but you have to keep yourself busy and relaxed and not get caught up in a situation that you can't control,” said O’Toole. “So you just stick to your game plan, stick to your routines, entertain yourself, go to the movies, hang out with people, whatever.”
And on a course that measured 7,047 yards and in an elevation of over 6,000 feet, fitness and fatigue became a factor as the week wore on. Fortunately for O’Toole, she was prepared physically, as well as mentally.
“I think it is a big advantage being in shape and dealing with altitude,” said O’Toole, who lifts weights three to four days a week and runs sprints as part of her regular fitness routine. “The only time I really felt the altitude was walking up hills. Being physically in shape helped me finish strong.”
A big-hitter, O’Toole has long been known for her length off the tee, but in the early rounds, the former UCLA collegian was deadly accurate with her putter. She drained key putts from every length to remain in the top five for most of her first 45 holes.
On the third day, however, O’Toole caught herself “peaking” at her putts – raising her head before she had completed her stroke.
“The greens were tricky and I guess I was peaking a little bit,” she said. “So I made a bet with my caddie. Every time I kept my head down, I got five bucks, and if I peaked, I owed him $20.”
O’Toole’s final round spilled over into Monday, requiring her to return to The Broadmoor to play her last four holes. The Californian, who generated media attention all week, birdied her final hole in the championship. It was as if she put the punctuation mark on a long, but break-through week as a top American player to watch.
“It was surreal,” said O’Toole. “It's like when I won on the Futures Tour three times and didn't really notice that I won until the next day or two. [And then when you] look back on the situation, it’s like, ‘Wow, I won!’”
O’Toole didn’t win the Open, but she scored a top-10 finish in her first try. Still, she admitted that, “as a competitor,” she was “bummed out” not to win the championship.
But what the third-year pro gained was greater public and media recognition as one of the LPGA’s new rising stars. She also took with her a new gauge of where she is on her career path.
“I proved to myself that I can be out here and that I can contend,” said O’Toole, who is in the LPGA field for the Evian Masters in France. “I’ve worked really hard to get where I am and it’s been a process. I’ve climbed the ladder and I haven’t skipped any steps. I’ll just wait until it’s my turn.”