It’s not like she spent the break in a tropical paradise. In fact, it snowed in Fargo, North Dakota, in May. But that didn’t deter or even dampen Amy Olson’s spirit. Nothing ever does. The 28-year-old, in her seventh season on the LPGA Tour, is still looking for her first career victory but remains the consummate happy warrior, a player who is universally kind and almost always upbeat.
She has also put together some stellar rounds in 2020 while adapting to a whirlwind of change.
She finished second at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open back in February, her best finish since September 2018 when she led the Evian Championship until the final hole and finished tied for second behind Angela Stanford. But after four great rounds Down Under earlier this year, Olson, along with everyone else in golf, hit the pause button. She went home to the frigid Midwest where she and her husband Grant (a football coach at North Dakota State University) weathered the unknown with grace and confidence.
“At first, I took (the hiatus) as being like a second offseason,” Olson said after opening with a 3-under par 69 in the Aberdeen Standard Investment Ladies Scottish Open on Thursday. “It was probably five weeks without touching a club after things got canceled. So then once the weather started getting better in May, I started practicing again.”
Then she paused and said, “Honestly I was just playing more than practicing. I think that was good for me, not spending too much time working on technical stuff.”
At some point in a career, playing the game is far more important than beating practice balls. Too often, particularly at high levels, players get caught up in working on swing mechanics or putting drills; hitting dozens of bunker shots or dialing in their wedge numbers. TrackMan and FlightScope devices have been become as ubiquitous as hand towels and aiming sticks on most Tour ranges. Sometimes the ultimate goal – playing the game well in all conditions with whatever feels you bring to the course – gets lost in all that work.
“Golf is so funny,” Olson said. “You're always overcoming changes. You're always making changes, whether it's to your equipment, your stroke, or your equipment to match your swing changes. It's an evolving process and you never have it 100% figured out. You're always learning.
“I was doing a lot of that during the quarantine,” she said. “But until you put it into competition, you don't always know, and you don't fully trust it. I think these first couple weeks have been very helpful for me.”
Her only real competition during the break was a made-for-television charity event she played with actor Josh Duhamel. “We played against PGA Tour player Tom Hoge and three-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Cullen,” Olson said. “All of us are local to either Minnesota or North Dakota. It was fun, definitely laid back, lighthearted, lots of jokes, lots of banter but a little bit competitive to where I did have to practice for a couple weeks so I didn't make a fool out of myself coming off five weeks of not touching a club.
We did raise over $250,000 for charity and that was really important for our community.”
Now, she has 13 new clubs in her bag and has shown spurts of brilliance since the LPGA Tour returned. At the LPGA Drive On Championship she opened with a 69 and was in contention until a bad final round. Then she had two good rounds at the Marathon Classic before struggling on Sunday.
A lot of it is what trainers call “fresh legs,” which is more than just a rested body. Olson has a renewed perspective on the game, a crispness that is serving her well.
“There haven't really been too many swing changes at all,” she said. “I feel like I've gotten to a bit of a place in my swing where I'm just (comfortable). There are adjustments that you have to make each week. I have my tendencies still that I have to mitigate. But for the most part, I'm really on track with my swing. My hot rounds are when my putter works. I think I zeroed in on something this week that I really like, and I was feeling really good out there over the putter. So, I'm really excited about where that's going to go.”
She also has an eagerness and willingness to try new things especially when it comes to links golf.
“I really enjoy playing golf over here,” she said, not just of The Renaissance Club in North Berwick outside Edinburgh, but of Scottish golf in general. “You have to use your imagination … I remember coming over here and I'm like, ‘How is my 5-iron going 240 yards when it generally carries 175?’ And then the next hole it will go 160 into the wind. Just trying to use your imagination and judge the wind and judge how firm things can be, I think somewhere around my third or fourth British Open I really started to get the feel of it and to become a little more comfortable riding the wind and using it to kind of help you out.
“But like I said, I really enjoy this type of golf, so it was fun to get off to a good start.”