Natasha Andrea Oon has lived a life many could only dream of. When she was just 12 years old, the Malaysian won a car – yes, a car – after making a hole-in-one at the 40th RSGC Ladies Amateur Open Championship. Before legally being able to drive, Oon walked away with a new grey Volvo XC60 and the family’s prized possession which they named Vanessa.
“It’s been pretty blurred, it’s been a while,” said the now 21-year-old. “I did get my 15 minutes of fame. It was just crazy because I didn’t even see the ball go in the hole, my mom was actually the one who experienced it. We all thought it was some kind of small car that I got, but my dad came from his office in that moment, and we all got to ride in another version of the car. He brought his Canon camera, everyone was clapping, and it was like I won the tournament before the tournament even finished.”
Despite being unable to drive her new prize right away, winning the car gave Oon a chance to grow in the national spotlight at a young age – a lesson, most don’t learn until after they’ve turned pro.
“It was a very eye-opening experience for me because for the first time, I felt like a lot of eyes were on me and a lot of comments were made about me,” said Oon. “As a 12-year-old, it’s very uplifting, but also, I felt like it was a great opportunity for me to handle all that and learn from it. It was a very cool experience, and I’ve lived a very extraordinary life for sure.”
Oon also got to meet golf legend Tiger Woods in Malaysia. After being picked to meet the PGA Tour superstar, Oon followed behind the ropes as he played the CIMB Classic. Woods waved to the youngster watching him with admiring eyes, a moment she’ll never forget.
The success Oon had as a child did not stop as she continued to grow up. At San Jose State University, she worked hard to become the 2019-20 Mountain West Women’s Golfer of the Year, 2021-22 Mountain West Player of the Year, and 2022 NCAA Individual Runner-up – Stroke Play. However, she didn’t always see herself as a force to be reckoned with.
“Before that [going to college,] I never saw myself as that much of a player. I went to the [United] States, worked my butt off and I never felt like I was where I wanted to be,” said Oon. “When I was first at San Jose State, I remember playing at the Asian Games and missing freshman orientation. I just came in and suddenly it was like practice, no jet lag, I was on caffeine mode. Then I played my first tournament on my 17th birthday and shot -5. Then I shot -1 and -1 [again]. I won, and I think from then on it was there. I felt the change in me.”
After a hot start, Oon struggled to maintain her success early on. The Malaysian got a coach and was determined to achieve her list of goals. She credits her coach, Erik Stone, for helping her continue to build a successful career. After her freshman year spring semester, she rarely finished outside the top 10 until she fractured her metatarsal as a junior which put her out of the game for half of a year.
“When senior year rolled around, I had been out for six months, and I didn’t know if I was going to be as good as I was,” said Oon. “It turned out to be even better. The stress was gone, I wasn’t expecting a lot of myself and I just kind of played.”
Oon’s success continued despite the setback, and she received the 2022 Inkster Award, named after the LPGA great Juli Inkster. The award is given to the highest-ranked women’s collegiate golfer annually in her final year.
“It’s crazy the relationship me and Juli have right now,” said Oon. “Having someone on-call to pick her brain, and to know what she has achieved, I felt like I had just won the golden ticket.”
Having Inkster as a resource provides the 2023 Epson Tour rookie a resource as she navigates the professional world. In just two tournaments, Oon has made both cuts and finished in the top 30. Although the “Road to the LPGA” will not always be smooth, Oon embraces the mistakes and learning moments.
“I’m just really blessed and grateful that I can do this. Every time I make a mistake it’s just an opportunity to learn more. I hope to understand how to manage this lifestyle more [at the end of the season,]” said Oon. “Obviously, we’re all looking forward to that LPGA Tour card. It’s a big thing to work for, but for me, when I went to the Epson Tour, I felt welcomed. I felt a community vibe and when I look back, I want to have enjoyed this year.”