Coming up Rosie
Rookie O’Toole earns captain’s pick for Solheim Cup
BY NEAL REID
Ryann O’Toole couldn’t believe what U.S. Solheim Cup Team Captain Rosie Jones was telling her.
After just eight events on the 2011 LPGA Tour, Jones had informed the rookie that she was going to be one of her two Captain’s picks for this year’s U.S. Solheim Cup Team, which will take on the European squad Sept. 23-25 at Killeen Castle in Ireland.
Dumbfounded is an accurate description of O’Toole’s reaction to the news.
“I was calm, but I said, ‘Are you kidding? I’m on the team?’” O’Toole said. “I didn’t cry, but internally, all my insides were going crazy. I was more shocked, and it didn’t really set in until later when I was driving in my car. I did one of those fist pumps, jumped around and yelled out.”
O’Toole said the reality of the situation is still something she’s coming to terms with.
“It really hasn’t sunk in completely and is still kind of surreal,” she said. “It’s just a big honor to be playing with Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome, and I could name all the girls on the team. Playing with players who have obviously done something out here, and being thrown in the mix with them and being able to partner up and bring my game to the table is an honor in itself. It’s another opportunity for me to learn so much more.”
O’Toole caught Jones’ eye after making six out of eight cuts and recording two top-10 finishes. After fighting to get her foot in the door and into full-field events like most rookies, O’Toole made the most of her chances.
In her fifth event, the U.S. Women’s Open – which O’Toole had to qualify for – she posted her first career top-10 finish. She finished ninth at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., in a week that featured four rain delays and that tested the resolve of even the most experienced veterans.
O’Toole perhaps sealed her spot on the team with a fifth-place finish at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 21. The next day, she was announced as one of Jones’ Captain’s picks, along with Vicky Hurst.
“I went for a wild pick,” Jones said. “She first got my attention at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, where she finished ninth. She has made her mark this season in only a few events and impressed me enough to gain a spot on our team. We picked her because she has moxie.”
That was just fine with O’Toole.
“I was definitely thrilled to have been picked,” said O’Toole, who won a Duramed Futures Tour event in April. “It was a big honor and something I’d been working toward. I’d kind of had it in the back of my mind since the U.S. Open, just knowing I didn’t have a lot of time to show myself and knowing I had a lot to prove. It is an honor to have Rosie take a shot and pick me after watching my performance in Portland, seeing my performance at the U.S. Open and seeing that I can play and have something to bring to this team.”
Players who have been there before have tried to tell O’Toole what The Solheim Cup will be like, but she hasn’t been able to get her mind around the concept of playing for her country on an international stage.
“To be honest, I don’t know what to expect with Solheim,” O’Toole said. “I’m going in with a real neutral mindset, because I don’t know how it’s going to be. The girls who have been (in Solheim Cups) try and tell me what to expect, but it’s tough and hard to fathom it being different than any other event. But I know it’s going to be. To know that, sometimes when you make a putt or hit a great shot, the crowd’s going to be silent, that’s a different mindset and is going to be a challenge.”
O’Toole, clearly, is an Irish surname, so the fact that the 24-year-old will be making her Solheim Cup debut in her family’s home land makes her selection even a more cherished gift.
“It does make it more special, especially since I’ve never been there and have wanted to go there my whole life,” O’Toole said. “It makes it even greater. There are so many times when I’ve wanted to take a vacation to Ireland, but I haven’t had the opportunity to. Here I am, I get to play in The Solheim Cup and I get to visit a country that my ancestors are from.”
O’Toole will be joined by her parents, brother and sister and a host of friends in Ireland, and she may even look to play the Irish card in stirring up support for her and the U.S. squad overseas.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get the Irish fans cheering for me or not,” O’Toole said. “I’ll have to go search for all the O’Tooles on Facebook and tell them to come out for it.”