PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Rosie Jones considers Ryann O’Toole a throwback of sorts. In a time when LPGA stars follow a more regimented, subdued model of professionalism, O’Toole reminds her Solheim Cup captain of a Juli Inkster or Patty Sheehan. Hall of Famers who, as Jones said, were never afraid “to strut their stuff.”
Actually, O’Toole reminds Jones of, well, herself.
“If I had her drives – oh, my God,” Jones said. “Just think what I could’ve done.”
Now Jones can only hope the unabashed confidence that got O’Toole onto the U.S. team as one of the wildest picks in Cup history doesn’t disappear.
Since O’Toole was picked last month in Portland, Ore., it’s not just that she missed the cut twice. It’s that she barely showed up. In Canada, she failed to beat a single player. In Arkansas last week, she beat five. Her scoring average: 77.
“It’s not like she picked herself,” Inkster said. “I think she’s trying to live up to the pick, and it’s hard. She’s a good player, and she’s going to be fine.”
O’Toole said the past two weeks have been a mental struggle. Internally, she started to press. While she embraced the newfound recognition, the UCLA grad was embarrassed by some of the shots she hit in competition.
The answer: Hang out. It sounds so California cool. When O’Toole was playing well, she “let the birdies come.” Now that she knows she can compete to win at the highest level, O’Toole tried to force the issue, and it backfired.
“I was totally not surprised that she let it get to her a little bit,” Jones said. “It’s a lot to take in as a young player.”
Inkster, one of Jones’ assistant captains, had dinner with Jones on Friday night in Portland and said they discussed three players as possible picks. O’Toole was not mentioned. (Side note: She’s also not on the player list of the LPGA’s media center website, despite being a member of the tour. Talk about off the radar.)
“That’s why they call them captain’s picks,” said Inkster, who found out on Sunday like everyone else.
The Safeway Classic, where O’Toole finished tied for fifth, was the rookie’s seventh LPGA event of the year. Though many viewed that as a handicap – and rightly so – to be fair to O’Toole, it’s difficult for a rookie to get many chances to prove her mettle.
“She came in the worst possible year ever,” said Jones, referring to the LPGA’s 23-tournament schedule.
When Creamer qualified for the 2005 Solheim Cup as a rookie, she competed in 19 events before the August cutoff. Creamer earned enough points to finish eighth on the Solheim points list, accumulated over a two-year period.
O’Toole realizes she wasn’t picked solely because of her performance in Portland, though it obviously played a major role. As for the abysmal finishes that followed: “I think a true champion isn’t afraid of losing.”
Still, Jones is aware of what’s going through the minds of many fans and players of late as they’ve watched O’Toole compete.
“She was great until I picked her,” Jones said. And then she reiterated what she has said all along.
“I still have a tremendous amount of confidence in her.”
As for O’Toole, the super-fit 24-year-old previously best known for her stint on reality TV, she’s still walking tall. Two weeks of bad golf isn’t enough to knock her down.
“How I finished in Portland doesn’t define me,” O’Toole said. “The last two weeks don’t define me.
“It’s where I’m going.”