Here’s a candidate for the most amazing fact of the week: Su Oh, the Melburnian who represents one of the best hopes of the Australians in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Adelaide, is playing her 12th Open.
Not so remarkable, you might say. Karrie Webb, for instance, has played more than 20.
But Su Oh is just 23 years of age. “It’s crazy,” the United States-based Oh said today. “I can’t believe it. Hannah (Green) asked me that, and I said: ‘I have no idea’.’’
Oh’s Women’s Australian Open debut came when she was 12 years old, back in 2009 at Metropolitan. She was the reigning Victorian junior champion at the time, and in year seven at Mackinnon Secondary College in Melbourne, only a few years into her new life in Australia having emigrated with her family from South Korea in 2004.
She entered the qualifying at nearby Kingswood just on the chance that she might get through. Which, of course, she did
With her father SG on the bag, she played alongside the best in the world as Laura Davies took the title. She missed the cut, but played okay. “I remember I tripled the 13th or something. I went over the back and then up-and-down, up-and down. I was first group out, and I remember driving into the car park and it was pitch black. We were first car there.”
Much has changed in the ensuing years. Oh became a world-class amateur, and kept qualifying for the national Open. With Minjee Lee, she won a world amateur championship for Australia, then turned professional and won an Australian Ladies Masters, moving on to the LPGA Tour. She represented Australia at the 2016 Olympics when golf made its return to the Games
The Open remains special to her, and she’s never missed one since 2009. “It’s different though,” she said. “I feel like the first five or six, I always had to qualify for it. It’s still a big deal because it’s the national Open, but this was like the tournament as an amateur, to qualify for it. Now it feels a bit more like part of the schedule. Except it’s like a major, better than most events because it’s my national championship. It’s different.’’
She’s never won the Open (in fact, no Australian has won for five years). At Royal Adelaide in 2016 she had her best chance, joint leader into the final round. But she shot 77 in the final round, feeling the heat, and dipped to 14th. “It was really windy, I remember,” she said. “But I played really well that week.”
Oh is ranked 57th in the world, which puts her third (behind Lee and Green) among Australian women. She’s a growing force, even though Lee and Green have outshone her. In fact, she had her best year in 2019, finishing 29th on the LPGA Tour points list, and sixth in the tour championship last November.
At the ISPS Handa Vic Open last week at Barwon Heads, she raced home on the last day to finish top-10 again. “Even last week I didn’t feel like I played amazing and I was only, what, two shots off the lead. Saturday morning was kind of nice because it was so windy. It was worse Saturday morning but I got to practice a bit and learn a bit. The second day (Sunday) it was easier.’’
Oh credits her improvement to her latest coach, Dana Dahlquist, a California-based instructor. Prior to that, she floundered under Australian Cameron McCormick, best known as the coach of Jordan Spieth, with whom Oh split last April. “It just wasn’t working out,” she said. “The way he was teaching wasn’t suiting my game.”
Dahlquist, she says, is a better fit. “I think he knows how to teach you to use your body in the golf swing. It’s how the body moves. I really like that. I don’t have to think so much. I just hit it.
“My ball-striking’s been so much better. I got a new coach in April; I’ve been working at it. It’s a bit more consistently better. It’s not so good then so bad the next day. I’m kind of grinding.
“I’ve been playing well at the end of the year as well. I played well last week. Hopefully I get it done this week.”