Malaysian Natasha Andrea Oon Ready to Bring Unforgettable Personality to LPGA Tour

Meet 2023 Epson Tour Graduate Natasha Andrea Oon

Natasha Andrea Oon didn’t know what to expect at the Maybank Championship. The Malaysia native hasn’t teed it up in her home country since becoming an Epson Tour winner, earning her LPGA Tour card for the 2024 season and being named the 2023 Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year. It’s also her first start on the LPGA Tour since the 2022 Portland Classic and her first tournament appearance since the Epson Tour Championship in early October.

And it’s her first time competing in Malaysia since turning professional last summer, making this homecoming a particularly special one for the 22-year-old.

“I had a really good year last year. Going out on tour, being a first-time pro and just getting the ins and outs of pro life was very difficult for me,” said the 2023 Epson Tour rookie in her pre-tournament press conference at the Maybank Championship. “Getting that Tour card and knowing that I'll be playing on (the LPGA) Tour next year fully and playing my first LPGA tournament as a confirmed LPGA Tour member in Malaysia is a full-circle moment because playing here gave me a lot of exposure to this kind of lifestyle when I was young. It changed my life.”

Like most female professionals, Oon got her start in the game at an incredibly young age, first picking up a club when she was four and winning her age division at the 2008 IMG Junior World Golf Championships when she was only six years old. From then on, golf was Oon’s primary focus and one of few constants as her family moved around Asia a lot, going from Singapore to the Philippines and then back to Malaysia. But she wasn’t a golf prodigy or a teenage phenom like some of her Epson Tour counterparts. Well, not yet anyway.

Oon trained with IMG after high school, “learning to work hard” at one of their academies before being recruited by San Jose State. She won an event called The Gold Rush her freshman year, and things really began to fall into place for Oon on the golf course. She was earning second and third team All-American honors and was named First Team All-Mountain West Conference, as well as earning the Mountain West Women’s Golfer of the Year award in 2020.

But then everything changed.

“I was getting All-Americans. I was hitting my goals. And then I had an injury,” Oon recalled. “And I was like, well, I guess that's it. Time to be a LinkedIn lady and get an internship. I really tried to get an internship, signed up for so many things. I didn't get it. But then I went back to golf.”

In her final season, Oon had plans to get a graduate degree in data analytics as she had already completed her undergraduate studies. And once again, things changed. Oon won the 2022 Inkster Award, an honor named after San Jose State alum and 31-time LPGA Tour winner Juli Inkster that is given to the highest-ranked Division I collegiate golfer in her final year of eligibility.

“I won the Juli Inkster Award, and I was like, alright, threw the whole plan that I thought about out the window,” Oon laughed. “I'm gonna do this, and then Epson Tour happened, everything happened, and now I'm here.”

While the honor is a prestigious one and something that every female collegiate golfer wants to have on her resume, what’s more special for the award winner is interacting with the seven-time major champion on a personal level, getting to know Inkster one-on-one and picking her brain about life, success and professional golf. Winning the Inkster Award provides a unique opportunity for young players to get an up-close look at what it takes to compete on the LPGA Tour and have a mentor who has reached the pinnacle of the women’s game on more than one occasion.

For Oon, Inkster has been critical to her success both on and off the golf course, and her mentorship has meant the world as the 22-year-old has pursued her dream of playing on the world’s biggest stage, a goal she has now achieved after an impressive rookie season on the Epson Tour. But maybe more importantly, Inkster has seemingly become a friend to the soon-to-be 2024 LPGA Tour rookie, something for which Oon is incredibly grateful.

“Juli's cool. You can text her, and she is so compassionate to everyone. And Juli is Juli to everyone. You might not believe in yourself, but someone like Juli will tell you to believe in yourself,” said Oon. “I've spent so much time with her that I really can't put it into words, but it's so much growth that I've had from her. She's just always there for you. It's so cool to have a mentorship by her.”

Oon’s inaugural season on the Epson Tour saw some strong play from the rookie, who carded four runner-up results before finally breaking through and capturing her first professional victory at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout presented by Pepsico, winning by three shots over Carley Cox and Robyn Choi. She also picked up three additional top 10s, tying for seventh at both the Florida's Natural Charity Classic and the Inova Mission Inn Resort & Club Championship and tying for eighth at the Copper Rock Championship.

Getting that win was a pivotal moment for Oon, not just because it secured her LPGA Tour card for the 2024 season, but because it validated the choice she made and the risk she took in pursuing professional golf over a much safer 9-to-5 office job.

“It's such a small space between winning and losing a tournament. And I felt like that there was a window that I had to break through,” Oon said. “I was kind of scared that maybe I didn't have that winner mentality. A lot of people don't think that we think those things, but we do. I mean, four times runner-up, you're like, do I just not have it? Is it something wrong with me? And then suddenly just coming with that win, it's like, oh, wait, now you can have this. No one's going to take this away from you.”

Natasha Andrea Oon of Malaysia tees off on the 2nd hole during the first round of the Maybank Championship at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on October 26, 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Oon was one of ten sponsor invites that had the opportunity to tee it up in the inaugural Maybank Championship in late October, and after carding four consistent rounds of 70-71-73-71, she ultimately finished in a tie for 52nd in Malaysia, a result she was overall pleased with considering this was her first time teeing it up on Tour as a soon-to-be 2024 rookie. Having not competed on the LPGA Tour since the 2022 Portland Classic, she really got to see how her game stacks up against the world’s top talent and will be working on plenty of things in the coming months to ready herself for success next season.

“It's a grand experience. There are so many people, and there are these nerves you play with the crowds, and I'm not used to crowds, so sometimes it's overwhelming. It's such a great introduction to what I should expect next year. I'm going to have to get more comfortable playing in front of crowds with longer distances, longer irons,” said Oon after her final round at the Maybank Championship. “In my off-season, I'm going to work on knowing my numbers and how much to carry and just getting into the groove of things. I'm just starting out. There is a lot of room to grow. I'm still learning every day.”

As she anticipates her rookie season next year, Oon is also excited about the opportunity she’ll have to represent her country on the global stage of the LPGA Tour. There have only been two other Malaysians that have been members of the LPGA – Kelly Tan and Siew-Ai Lim – and the 22-year-old is very much looking forward to being the next player to compete under the Stripes of Glory and hopes to inspire others like Tan did for her in her early years.

“Kelly's definitely been like the Malaysian women golfer to look out for a while, and she's done a lot on the LPGA Tour,” said Oon of Tan. “It's been awesome to follow her story growing up and hearing about her, what she's going through. It hasn't been easy for her. She's always open to helping us and open to texting. It's cool to see these girls really trying hard for the up-and-coming golfers.”

Oon is also eager for the fans to get to know her and hopes that her self-described “eccentric” personality will help connect more fans to women’s golf, encouraging people from around the world to tune in and watch these top-tier athletes chase their dreams week in and week out on the LPGA Tour.

“I tend to laugh a lot. But that doesn't mean I don't take it seriously out there. That's just kind of how I cope with the pressure,” she said. “(I would want to) spread awareness about how grueling, how hard it is out there, how amazing these women are and how we all should look to these women on the LPGA Tour. I would just love to spread more awareness about how cool it is for me to be doing this and how much more views it should get. Not me, but the Tour.”

And that goal won’t be a tall task for someone like Oon, who is proud of who she is and where she comes from, and who is one of those unforgettable characters that golf fans will surely adore the moment she steps on a tee box for the first time as an LPGA Tour rookie in 2024.