Getting to know this U.S. Women’s Open Competitor
Like many other professional players, Megan Osland found herself in a state of flux, not knowing when she would be able to leave her native Canada to resume her golf career. Playing previously on the Symetra Tour and some regional tours like the Australian Tour, the NWGA (National Women’s Golf Association) or the WAPT (Women’s All Pro Tour), it was not until March of 2020 when Megan Osland found out that her golf season was going to be interrupted, forcing her to return home before lockdown measures went into effect.
“I went out in January and played on the Australian tour for two months. I was there January through March, that's the length of the entire season for their tour. Then I got back the second week of March, and I was in Louisiana about to play a tournament there, right when the NBA shut things down. And then the Canadian government was starting to tell everyone that if you're out of country, come home right away. So, I flew back home, and I was back home in Kelowna for over a year.”
Like many players, Osland found the lockdown period posed a major challenge for her because of the uncertainty and how she would keep her game competitive. After the initial phase, she was able to resume her practice and fitness training, returning to the local golf courses for practice and to the gym for her training and conditioning . This became her regular routine for the remainder of 2020. While monotonous, it offered her the opportunity to really concentrate on her game.
“I was home in Kelowna for over a year. I didn't leave Canada (for) the rest of 2020. And then. So, basically for me, it was just the year of getting better, working on my game, training as much as I could. I played a ton of rounds of golf at the Kelowna Golf and Country Club, where I'm a member. And just practice that practice all summer, out at the Harvest (Golf club), and then, yeah, basically just working on my game, using that time to my advantage and trying to get better.”
Of course, one of the biggest disadvantages to having a year off from competition is just that – the lack of competition, playing under pressure and having to approach golf in a more business-like fashion. Despite being in her hometown of Kelowna for much of the entire year, she still managed to sneak down to Vancouver to play some minor professional events on the Vancouver Golf Tour – a local tour that once boasted players such as PGA Tour players such as Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor.
“I played a couple of the Vancouver Golf Tour events. It's a men's tour out in Vancouver. And then I had two good finishes where I came . . . where I had two second place finishes – and both by one shot. So, playing against the men and that's pretty much the extent of any tournaments, I played all year.”
Returning "South by Southwest"
Unlike the LPGA, which was able to resume play part way through the remainder of 2020, the minor tours were unable to undertake such wide-ranging Covid-19 safety initiatives. The uncertainty of when the professional golf season would resume, meant that Osland had to adopt both a “wait and see” approach while remaining flexible to take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves.
“So, normally, I would come down here probably like January 1st, and start to get ready for the season. But this year was obviously a little bit different. So, I hung around Kelowna until April 1st . . . so I just spent the winter and then as soon as the golf courses started opening up, I was out there just practicing as much as I could and I had definitely a lot less time to prepare than I normally would but, just kind of made the most of it. And then yeah, I got down here April 1st, started playing on the Women's All Pro Tour, WAPT.”
With the gradual resumption of professional golf on the regional tours and an easing of travel restrictions, Osland made her way back to Texas in April, playing a couple of WAPT events, her best finish being a share of sixth place. Then it was finding a suitable Qualifying event for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. Qualifying for the Championship has been an annual goal for Osland since 2018; she first achieved that goal in 2019, qualifying out of Bradenton, Florida for the Championship held in Charleston, South Carolina. With annual qualifying events held primarily around the United States, players have a choice as to which venue they register for. With a 12-day break in her WAPT schedule, she decided to sign up for the event in Ormond Beach, Florida.
“I figured that, you know, Florida was kind of a good place for me. So, then I played in Ormond Beach. (It) worked out well with the WAPT schedule because there was that break (12 days). And yeah, it just worked out well, because I think we were in Texas too. So it's not not too far to travel over to Florida either. So that one just work best. That just made the most sense for my schedule anyways.”
Before she played the Two-day qualifier in Ormond Beach, she wanted to squeeze in another tournament so that she could get a couple of more competitive rounds in. This time it was a Two-day event hosted by the NWGA in Orlando, Florida. But, life had another twist in store for Osland. A few days before the event, she received news that her long-time coach, Sean Richardson, had passed away, succumbing to the cancer that he had been battling. While she was deeply saddened by his passing, Osland found a way to channel the emotion into a positive one.
“He's coached me for nine years. So, he believed in me more than anyone. And you know, even when I would doubt myself, he’d always just be there to remind me, you know, of all the good things that I've been doing. So yeah, it's definitely motivating, and I just felt like, you know, just believe in myself and in all the things that he would tell me.”
Once play commenced in Florida, Osland found herself in contention and during her final round, she managed to get herself on the “birdie train”, rattling off 10-birdies on her way to a score of 65 (-6 under), and the clubhouse leader. Once the final competitors holed out on the 18th hole, she was the winner. She describes her two rounds as having been inspired by her coach and the confidence that he had in her.
“I felt like all the things that he had told me were really like, you know, coming to fruition and I went through a stretch just making birdie after birdie after birdie. He said, this is one of those things you feel, you're just in the zone. I had (those thoughts) in my mind, and I just felt like he was there kind of pushing me along.”
The good feelings and confidence carried over into her U.S. Women’s Open qualifier as Osland finished the event in second spot, earning her way to San Francisco and the 76th edition of the Championship.
If You are Going to San Francisco . . .
Having attended San Jose State University on a golf scholarship, the trip to San Francisco is a bit of a home coming for Osland. “The day after (qualifying), we started talking about planning the trip out here (the Bay Area), and then I realized . . . I could be in San Jose for a couple weeks, and then I would be out here in San Francisco. So yeah, I was really excited about that.”
She arrived two weeks ago and has taken the time to get herself reacclimated to the misty Bay Area conditions, playing practice rounds at her alma mater’s home course while working out in the same facilities she used to when she attended San Jose State. On the day we chatted, Osland just finished up a practice round at Olympic Club. A longer driver of the golf ball, she has to be mindful of how she wants to play the course, the line she needs to take off of the tee box, and how to set up her second shot for the green.
“Off the tee, you have to hit the fairways. The rough is like, a foot deep right now. So, if you hit it in the rough, you're basically going back out to the fairway. You're punching out and you can't get a shot to the green from the rough. So, hitting the fairways, for sure. After that, it's just going to be about good placement on the greens. There's a lot of like, subtle breaks in these greens. So just learning that.”
It has long been common knowledge that the U.S. Golf Association have a typical course set-up in mind when it comes to their Open Championships. Practice rounds will be key for Osland and she will have some opportunities to get in some practice rounds with some knowledgeable LPGA veterans as she has practice round scheduled with major champion, Anna Nordqvist and then another with Lexi Thompson, another major champion. Of course, she is also hoping to meet up with Paula Creamer, a past US Women's Open champion who is playing this year on a special exemption.
Osland met Creamer at her tune-up event earlier this year in Orlando. When Osland won the NWGA event by a single shot, it was Paula Creamer that she edged out. “I played with her in the practice rounds (in Orlando), which was really nice. So, I kind of got to know her. So it was really nice. Then when I qualified for the Open (USWO), she sent me a text message to congratulate me and that she hoped to see me there (in San Francisco). She’s so down to earth and she’s just so friendly and stuff when I played with her, so it was really nice that she took time to reach out to me when I qualified.”
One thing is certain for sure and that is the Osland will most definitely enjoy the experience of playing the U.S. Women’s Open again. If she can make the cut and play the weekend, it will have been a highly successful tournament for her, but not only that – she will have had the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the world and to learn a little from all of them.
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