Date: February 12, 2014
Author: Martin Blake /

Oh so used to these surroundings

Su Oh carries a unique record into this week&aposs ISPS Handa Women&aposs Australian Open. At just 17 years of age, she is competing in her sixth Open, and that is not a misprint. Oh, a year-12 student at Mackinnon Secondary College and one of the world&aposs best amateurs, has played every Open since she qualified in sensational circumstances as a 12-year-old in 2009. The tournament was held at Metropolitan in that year, and the enduring champion Laura Davies from England won. But Oh&aposs appearance as the youngest-ever player in tournament history put her into the spotlight, something she was less than prepared for having only passed through the qualifying phase at her home club of the time, Kingswood, on the Monday of tournament week. “Honestly, it was probably one of the best weeks ever,&apos&apos she said today. “I didn&apost even know it was such a big event. I thought &aposOkay, I&aposll try to pre-Q&apos. It was at Kingswood, so I thought I&aposd just try, and I got in. Then the media were &aposcan we talk to you&apos and I thought &aposwhoa&apos.&apos&apos She missed the cut, but only by a few shots, and showed enough to suggest that she was a star of the future. Then she qualified at Commonwealth in 2010 (finishing 51st) and 2011 (missing the cut), and received exemptions in 2012 at Royal Melbourne (61st) and Royal Canberra last year, where she achieved her best finish, tied-28th. Six years on from those heady days at Metropolitan, Oh is a far more mature person and the No. 3 ranked amateur in the world, as well as the reigning Victorian amateur champion. Along with her friend and rival Minjee Lee, also 17 and a member of Golf Australia&aposs national squad, she represents the future of Australian women&aposs golf. GA believes these two young women are the elite performers that they have been trying to unearth for years, with a yawning gap between world No. 8 Karrie Webb and the remainder of the Australians on the world circuit, not one other player in the top 100. But Oh and Lee, both of Korean descent, drive each other while remaining good friends. Oh came to Melbourne when she was eight; Lee was born in Perth. “We&aposve got great rivalry,&apos&apos said Oh. “We travel a lot together and see each other at tournaments all the time. We&aposre both so competitive. You&aposre always competitive as an athlete. You play golf and you&aposre competitive, then off the course, you&aposre just friends.&apos&apos Oh has high expectations this week, as opposed to the past when she would have been happy to make the cut. But she played below her best at Royal Pines last week in the Australian Ladies Masters, and a long session on the range with Noel Blundell, the renowned sports psychologist, filled her Monday. “I probably played the worst golf I could but I made the cut. So it wasn&apost too bad. Like Noel was saying, I was all over the place with my head. Hopefully the mental side comes back this week. I&aposm just working on actually playing the golf course rather than just on the range.&apos&apos The teenager has Michael Clayton, touring professional, course architect, writer and historian on her bag this week, an arrangement that comes about because they are both members at Metropolitan, and occasionally play together. Clayton, who has not caddied for decades, has become somewhat of a mentor. “They (Lee and Oh) are the best two (female) players we&aposve had since Karrie Webb, clearly,&apos&apos he said. “They&aposve got the talent to be where Karrie is now.&apos&apos Oh (given name Su-Hyun, but “just call me Su&apos&apos) is rapt to have someone with an intimate knowledge of Victoria carrying her bag. “It&aposs good to have someone who&aposs a good player himself, and he&aposs a good mentor for me. He teaches me a lot of the history.&apos&apos Clayton is a stickler for young players knowing the history of the game, and recently he was shocked to learn that Oh did not know who Seve Ballesteros was. “We were talking about Seve and she said &aposwho&aposs Seve?&apos. She didn&apost know who Seve was. I said &aposseriously? Read his book&apos,&apos&apos said Clayton, who also handed her a copies of some books about the late Ben Hogan. Oh is playing the Victorian Open at 13th Beach next week and then the World Ladies Championship in China, then she will be back to school again. “I did one subject last year, so I&aposm only doing three,&apos&apos she said. “So it&aposs not too bad.&apos&apos In amongst her schooling she will need to fit in time to play the United States amateur championships, and travel to Kuala Lumpur in April to help Australia defend the Queen Sirikit Cup, an elite amateur event for women which she won last year with Lee and Grace Lennon. Plus, her club Metropolitan would love her to lead their pennant team, of course. She intends turning professional at this time next year. “I think you just turn pro when you think you&aposre ready. Obviously Lydia&aposs really ready! Age is not the thing. So my goal is to turn pro at the end of the year but nothing&aposs set.&apos&apos