An Up Close & Personal interview with Symetra Tour Sophomore Megan Osland and her journey to the Symetra Tour
There is a stereotype of Canadian children – you know the one. The one that says Canadian kids are born to play hockey – as in the great Canadian winter pastime of ice hockey. The subject of this month’s interview will surely not disappoint. Megan Osland hails from Kelowna, a mid-sized community in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia.
Kelowna is home to courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Canadian architects like Les Furber, Thomas McBride and Graham Cooke. With such a number of fine golf courses in the Okanagan valley, it really is small wonder that some of Canada’s professional golfers hail from this area. Former LPGA touring pros, Gail Graham (Kelowna) and AJ Eathorne (Penticton) trace their roots to the area. Current Symetra and LPGA player, Samantha Richdale also calls Kelowna home. Now, Megan Osland hopes to follow in their footsteps.
While we have been corresponding regularly for the past several weeks, Megan is in Florida, preparing for the 2017 Season opening Symetra Tour event when I speak to her on the telephone for our interview.
Where is your home course?
Kelowna Golf & Country Club.
What was your major in University?
BSc. Degree in Recreation Management (May 2015).
What is your current professional status?
Symetra Tour Member with Full Privileges.
When did you start following or watching the LPGA?
8 years of age.
Did you have a favorite player that you followed or took interest in?
What is your favorite tournament event from your collegiate career?
The Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational & Wyoming Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate.
What is your favorite club in the bag?
All of them!
What is your favorite shot to play?
A cut shot; around a tree, bush or another obstacle. I love to hit a controlled cut and have it end up exactly where I wanted it!
What is currently* in your bag?
- Driver – Cobra Amp Cell, 10.5° loft, Regular flex shaft
- 3W – Cobra Amp Cell, 13° loft, Regular flex shaft
- Hybrids: – 20.5° Cobra Bio Cell and 23.5° Cobra Bio Cell
- 5 – PW: TaylorMade Tour Preferred CB irons
- Wedges: TaylorMade Tour Preferred in 56° loft and 60° loft
- Putter – Scotty Cameron Select Newport 2
- Ball – Titleist Pro V1; Bag – Nike Sport Lite Carry
*As of March 07, 2017
Hockey and Golf – The Canadian Girl Next Door
Megan Osland was a young girl of 8 years when golf first captured her interest. Her earliest recollections are of watching LPGA tournaments on television with World Number One – Lorena Ochoa, as her favorite player.
Golf, however, was not her first passion. Prior to that, she had been a hockey player, having learned to skate as soon as she could walk. She quickly picked up the sport of hockey, playing the position of center on local boys teams. Her team also enjoyed some success along the way, winning the Provincial “Pee Wee” Hockey championships two years running.
In fact, hockey has had an influence on Megan’s golf game. Even though she is naturally right-handed, as a hockey player, she learned to shoot left-handed. This preference of shooting left-handed then carried over into her golf swing. “My father played hockey left-handed and golfed left-handed. That is basically how I came to play left-handed,” explains Megan.
With hockey being a winter sport, Megan and her parents wanted some activities to keep her busy during the summer months. That is where golf came into the picture. Her parents enrolled her into golf camps when she was 8, with her first junior golf tournament at the age of 12.
She warmly recalls that her first experience with golf was that her father developed a drill for her to practice whenever they went to the range.
Megan was given a target to aim for and as an added reward, if she succeeded in hitting the target, her father would offer her some chocolate. She shares a hearty laugh as she reveals that she has a special fondness for chocolate.
An LPGA Mentor
Osland’s developmental years in golf came primarily from the golf lessons that she attended in her hometown. The bonus for Osland was that her coach was the retired LPGA professional – Gail Graham.
In recalling an early memory of her lessons with Gail, she tells me the story of how she attended her first day as an 8-year-old wearing her “Sponge Bob” visor, wide-eyed and eager to learn as much as possible.
“We got along right away” says Osland of her relationship with Graham, before adding that she was grateful that Graham “saw a lot of potential in me.”
Unfortunately for Osland, the coaching relationship only lasted two years. “Gail got offered the job of president of the LPGA … she moved to Atlanta so she was not able to coach me anymore.” Graham went on to serve as the President of the LPGA Tournament Owners Association in 2001 and 2002.
Despite Graham moving on in her career, she has continued to play an important role in Megan’s development and growth as a player and a person.
“Gail was one of the key people that I consulted with regarding . . . colleges and where to go. She is a really close friend of mine and a mentor.” Osland then shares that Gail became a mother figure of sorts for her, especially as it pertained to her golf career.
Mentors typically have a positive influence on the development of their charges and this case is no different. Osland learned the importance of staying positive, sharing that Gail “has such great energy about her; so positive and enthusiastic about golf and life,” before adding that “when I’ve been at the lowest point in my career, she has been there for me”.
One of Osland’s biggest thrills also came courtesy of Graham, as she introduced Megan to her childhood golfing idol – Lorena Ochoa.
“I was 14 (years of age)… Gail was commentating at the 2007 CN Canadian Women’s Open and I came to watch. Lorena won the tournament … and Gail took me under the ropes onto the 18th green where Lorena was presented with the trophy and I got her autograph.” The experience cemented Ochoa’s status as Osland’s favorite player.
San Jose State University
The IMG Junior World Championships are held every year at Torrey Pines golf course in San Diego, California. Bringing together competitors from all over the world in several age groups, the event has become a showcase of junior golf.
It was during this tournament that the prospect of a collegiate career in golf presented itself to Megan.
College coaches and recruiters descend on Torrey Pines to observe the players and identify future prospect. One of those coaches was from San Jose State University – John Dormann. Both John and his spouse Dana coach the Women’s golf team at San Jose State University, with John serving as head coach and Dana as the assistant.
During the Torrey Pines tournament, John followed Osland around the course for several holes as she played. He also struck up a conversation with Megan’s father, Rick, as he started to take an interest in Megan’s game. She reminisces that “I think that he liked my swing and the power that I was able to generate”.
When it came time to consider the various offers of a golf scholarship, Osland did not hesitate to discuss them with her mentor. She says that Graham was very helpful as she considered the merits of each offer and how it could be beneficial for Osland and her golf.
“I knew that I wanted to go to college and play golf” she says, “I wanted a good university with a good golf program… and (one that) was on the west coast”. After further pondering her choices with her swing coach, Sean Richardson and her parents, father Rick and mother Terry, Megan accepted the offer from San Jose State University – SJSU.
A Program Steeped in History
The Spartans, as the San Jose State University teams are known, compete in Division 1 of the NCAA in the “Mountain West Conference”
One of its most notable golfing alumni included legendary broadcaster, player, and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame – Ken Venturi.
A native of the San Francisco Bay area and a renown amateur golfer, Venturi nearly won the 1956 Masters Tournament as an amateur, before turning pro and winning the US Open in 1964 at Congressional. Venturi became even more widely known as one of CBS Sports most prominent golf announcers, helping to host its coverage of the Masters every April.
The women’s program at SJSU is arguably even more renowned with LPGA Hall of Fame members, Patty Sheehan and Juli Inkster among its notable alumni.
Other notable alumni include LPGA professionals Pat Hurst and Janice Moodie. Hurst is only one of five women to ever win both the NCAA Women’s Individual Championship and the US Amateur Championship.
The Women’s Team also achieved 3-Three NCAA Division 1 Championships, winning in 1987, 1989 and 1991.
Attending a program with such a rich history provided Osland with insights into the professional game that she might not otherwise have been exposed to.
Both Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst still live in the Bay area and visit the golf team periodically. Osland recalls that her team used to practice frequently at Los Altos Country Club – the de facto home club of Juli Inkster. There were many times when they would meet up and get insight into life on the LPGA.
One of the most memorable of these was when Osland had a casual round of golf with Pat Hurst. “She (Hurst) was a real character. She (Hurst) and Juli were such down to earth people … I (also) got to hear the stories about the 2015 Solheim Cup team and all the experience” relays Osland with a touch of excitement in her voice.
Hurst was an associate captain on the 2015 Solheim Cup team, serving with Juli Inkster, her former San Jose State alumnus and captain of the US Team. Inkster will be returning again this year as the team captain at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club.
The 2015 version of the competition became notable for the controversy involving US Solheim rookie Alison Lee and the European team of Charley Hull and Suzann Pettersen over the “conceded/not conceded putt”.
The event also saw the largest come from behind victory in the history of the competition as the United States team rallied, winning the improbable 8.5 points needed on the final day to snatch victory away from the defending champion European team.
Osland learned from Hurst how the team had rallied from the controversy and focused their attention and energy into the Sunday singles matches. It was a lesson in learning to deal with adversity and being able to channel that energy and motivation into a constructive outlet.
Transition to Professional
Megan Osland’s senior year at San Jose State University was her most successful year in college.
As a senior, she won the Wyoming Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate tournament with a three-day score of 217 (+1) for a 7-shot margin of victory. Her efforts helped contribute to the Spartans taking home the top team award for the tournament.
Later that season, she won her second tournament of the season, finishing T-1 at their home event, the Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational. Osland finished the three-day tournament with a score of 219 (+3), and combined with solid play from her teammates, the Spartans captured first place again as the top team.
Osland’s senior year saw her produce steady results, as she finished in the top ten in 6 of her 11 tournaments that season. She also tied the school record for a low round, shooting a 66 (-5) in the second round of the Bay Area Intercollegiate tournament hosted at the Meadow Club in Fairfax, California. She finished the year with distinction, named to the First Team, “All – Mountain West Conference”.
Throughout her senior year in college, with each success and her confidence growing, Osland started to more seriously entertain the possibility of pursuing a career in professional golf.
As she came to the conclusion that she wanted to turn professional, she sought out several key people around her.
In addition to her parents, these included her long-time mentor, Gail Graham, along with her coaches, John and Dana Dormann at San Jose State University. She then spent some time discussing it with her swing coach, Sean Richardson of the Harvest Golf Club in her hometown of Kelowna.
The next step for Osland was to enter into the LPGA Q-School tournament, starting with Stage I at the Mission Hills Golf Course, the home of the ANA Inspiration – the LPGA’s first major of the season.
After a successful Stage 1 tournament, she advanced to Stage II at the Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Florida. It was here that she hit her first “speed bump” in her pursuit of an LPGA tour card.
She finished the Four Day tournament with a score of 306 (74-76-76-80) or (+18) over par and 3-shots above the “cut line” score of 303 (+15) preventing her from advancing to Stage III.
“It was really disappointing. I played okay for most of the tournament … and then the last 9-holes of the tournament … I kind of lost it mentally … I lost my focus and my confidence … all at once. I thought that I had no chance of making it at that point and it affected the way that I played the last 9-holes” says Osland. “Once I got in (to the clubhouse) I realized that had I just hung in there a little bit, I would have made it (to Stage 3)” laments Osland.
Regardless of the outcome, it provided her with the opportunity to play on the Symetra Tour as a conditional member. Her priority status was sufficiently high enough that she was able to get into all of the events that she wanted.
2016 – A Symetra Tour Rookie
A nondescript first year on the Symetra Tour for Osland is best summed up as a “learning year”. She participated in 16 events, earning $3,097 on the year. She made the cut in 4 of the 16 events, with her best finish being a T-23 at the Tullymore Classic in Canadian Lakes, Michigan.
The other highlight of her year was a personal best, shooting 66 (-6) in the second round of the Decatur–Forsyth Classic tournament in Decatur, Illinois. She finished the tournament with a 3-day score of 214 (-2) for a T-32 finish, 8-strokes back of the winning score of 206 by Clariss Guce of the Philippines.
“I think that I probably learned more about myself and my golf game (last year) than I had in a lot of years combined. It was a really hard transition going from college golf to the type of lifestyle that it is on the road” explains Osland.
“In college, you play maybe 9 or 10 tournaments a year. You come out here (on the Symetra Tour) and you play 23 events between March and October. It’s a total shock to the system as far as how much golf you’re playing, how often you have to be in ‘tournament mode’ and …it took me a little while to adjust to the routine” adds Osland.
Managing expectations is one of the major lessons that Osland has drawn from her rookie season.
“I kind of expected a lot out of myself after having a really good senior year in college. I think I put a little too much pressure on myself right off the bat. So, it was kind of a combination of those things that led me to a really rough season” she says in hindsight.
Managing and coordinating the newfound responsibilities that come with life after college was another lesson learned. As a college player, tournaments, practice schedules, accommodations and travel to the various tournaments were all organized by the team.
Osland found herself having to take full responsibility for organizing her own travel and accommodations for tour events. She had to register for the various tour events, coordinate her own practice schedules and manage her finances allowing her to compete on tour.
Making the transition from amateur collegiate player to a full-time professional did not end there. Another big change was becoming accustomed to life as a touring professional and developing the routines needed to succeed.
“You have to figure out what your body needs. After being on the road that long you have to figure out your eating habits; your sleeping patterns change, the different time zones; … it’s a big learning experience and learning how to play and compete at the next level” says Osland.
She was fortunate enough, however, to still have some support from her alma mater as she had access to her physical trainers at San Jose State, working with strength and conditioning coaches to develop her own fitness and training programs.
She opines that the Symetra Tour has done a really good job in organizing fitness facilities in every tour stop for the players to access. “We can keep a somewhat consistent workout routine” she says of the benefit.
2016 LPGA Qualifying
After the season ended, Osland regrouped, evaluated the season and what her goals and targets would be for the following 2017 season.
When we start to talk about the 2016 LPGA Qualifying tournaments, I share with her that I noticed her progressing through Stage II – seeing her name on the leader board and in tournament results as she progressed through to Stage III.
She tells me that she entered the 2016 Qualifying process in a much better frame of mind than she did in 2015. She attributes that to the hard-earned experience gained from the year before.
Osland was able to start the qualifying process at Stage II, bypassing the initial Stage I tournament. After a successful Stage II tournament where she finished as the top Canadian, she advanced to Stage III with her sights set on qualifying for the big tour.
Stage III is held annually at the LPGA International complex in Daytona Beach, Florida. The players compete over Four Days, alternating on two courses, the Jones Course and the Hill Course. The cut comes down after the fourth round as the top 60, including ties, advance to a fifth and final Round.
Osland played well over the four days, posting scores of (76-72-76-72) for a four-day total of 294 (+4) over par for the tournament. Of the two courses, she played the Hill Course well, posting her two, even par scores of – 72.
Yet, at the end of the day, the cut line was determined for the top 60 players at even par or a total score of – 290. Osland missed advancing by 4 – strokes.
Speaking to her about the tournament, she shows a remarkable maturity about it. “I went into it with an open mind. I learned from my mistakes … (not to) go in with too many expectations; I went into it prepared. Obviously, not the result that I had hoped for … but I was really happy with my experience there”.
When I ask her if there was one thing that she could do differently during Stage III, she relays a story about one particular hole – a par 3, surrounded by water. The hole is located on the back nine of the Jones Course. Osland carded a double bogey (2 – strokes over par) on the same hole both days that she played it.
“If it wasn’t for that one hole, I would have made it to the final day … I put it (my ball) in the water both days (off of the tee) …it really was just two swings (that cost me).”
Despite the setback, Osland remained focused, “I played really well all week and I had a good mindset in the tournament.”
The next step for Osland was to regroup. She spent the Christmas holidays in her hometown of Kelowna with her family and some friends.
She continued working on her game, both on and off the course. Her on-course goals are to improve her iron play and ball striking, focusing on hitting more “Greens in Regulation” (GIR). In 2016, she managed to hit 56.02% of the “Greens In Regulation” – a passable result, but not what Osland wants if she is to develop her game as a professional.
She worked with her swing coach, Sean Richardson, indoors over the holiday season evaluating her swing and improving her ball striking. She has also targeted her putting as an area to focus on for 2017.
Another on-course goal is to compete and contend in more tournaments, as she wants to consistently finish in the top 20.
Off-course, her goals for 2017 focus primarily on her fitness goals – wanting to improve her “range of motion” and to strengthen her core muscle group that is the foundation of the golf swing.
She also has her sights on qualifying for the LPGA with the goal of playing on tour for the 2018 season.
As we wind up our interview, I ask her one last question – what would you say to any young woman or to any girls out there that are considering professional golf as a career?
Osland pauses a moment before responding, “I would say to definitely give it a shot. Once you’re out here, you start to realize what it takes (to succeed). You can’t really succeed out here unless you give it 100% every day … working hard every single day on your fitness and your golf game and all aspects of it. “
“It’s not good enough to just be good; you really have to work hard to be great. If you’re willing to give it 110% … then you’re definitely the kind of person who will be comfortable out here (on tour).”
There is a common adage that I remember about failure. I cannot recall who said it, but It goes something like this – “failure lies not in falling down, but in not getting back up”.
As I listen to Megan Osland, I can hear a maturity and a calm confidence in her voice. She has taken last season’s setbacks and has learned from it. As she shared with me, she learned more about herself and her golf game in her first year on tour than several years combined.
As we say goodbye, I think to myself that Megan is an example of how important a person’s attitude is in influencing the “altitude” that they achieve in their life. With Megan’s attitude, I think that she can go far in reaching her career goals and aspirations.
Follow Megan Osland’s professional golf career online at meganoslandgolf and on Facebook and Twitter.
Douglas Jay 🇨🇦, is a single digit handicap golfer who grew up playing hockey in winter and golf in the summer. After graduating from University of British Columbia and Capilano University, he is now a professional in Local Government Management and Administration.