Blair O’Neal was among the big names on hand for the PGA Merchandise Show on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla.
The Cobra/Puma staffer and LPGA Symetra Tour player took some time to sit down with Golfweek before helping demonstrate the Gears System’s 3D golf-swing analyzer at the Equipment Test Center:
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Talk about your golf career since graduating from Arizona State and the experience of working toward the LPGA.
After graduating (from Arizona State) and turning professional, I played golf over in Asia, traveled all over Asia, Thailand, Japan, China. Played a little bit on the Symetra Tour and the West Coast Tour, then decided to take four and a half years off from playing golf, doing modeling professionally. Then I got a call from Golf Channel to do Big Break. I was the runner-up in 2009 and got invited back the next year and won that one in the Dominican Republic. That really kickstarted my career again on the golf course.
Did your passion for the game go away a little bit during the modeling stint before coming back following Big Break?
No, it never went away, but Big Break just kind of sparked it again. It was always there, but I had another career path that I wanted to pursue and see what i could do with, and I was really successful with that and I really enjoyed it. But ultimately, I really love playing competitive golf and that’s really my true passion. I’ve taken a path that’s different than a lot of the players out there, but it’s been neat because I’ve gotten to do a lot of different things.
You played 16 times on the Symetra Tour in 2013 and made six cuts. Talk about last season.
Last year was the most difficult year I’ve ever had on the golf course. Physically I played well and I worked my butt off, and I did a lot of good things and did improve in a lot of ways. But mentally, it was tough. I put a lot of expectations and pressure on myself, and it ultimately got to the point where I was almost not having that much fun out on the golf course – I was almost grinding too hard at it. It was really a learning year for me. This offseason I’ve gotten to reflect on it and look back on what I did and what I need to do differently going forward. I’m excited to play a new year and have a new go at it.
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O’Neal, who again failed to advance out of LPGA Q-School last year, said she plans to play the next three weeks on the Cactus Tour before competing in the Symetra Tour season opener, the VisitMesa.com Gateway Classic on Feb. 22-24 in Mesa, Ariz.