Ryann O’Toole’s big break really came this week at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Best known for her stint on the “Survivor”-like reality golf show “Big Break,” O’Toole finished in ninth place Monday with a final score of 3 over, six shots behind South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu, who won in a playoff.
Along with O’Toole’s performance comes a check for $81,915 -- by far the biggest of her career -- and opportunities not only to compete in future LPGA Tour events but to pick up more sponsors.
“I got my name out there,” said O’Toole, who’s already received 200 emails, most of them in the form of new Facebook requests. “That was kind of my goal: to give everyone a heads up that I can play and I can contend.”
Yes, she concedes, her stint on “Big Break” was good exposure. But she wants to be known for her work on a course at a tournament, not in front of a camera competing in challenges.
“I know I’ll always have the title of ‘Big Break,”’ O’Toole said. “But I would love to have the title of U.S. Open” winner.
She’s hardly alone.
There was a time when she was near the top of the leaderboard, before unraveling Sunday and shooting a 4-over 75 in the third round. She regrouped for the final round, finishing Monday in fine fashion with a birdie on No. 18, which was the toughest hole on the challenging Broadmoor course.
O’Toole didn’t have the biggest galleries following her around at the tournament. That distinction belonged to 2010 U.S. Open champion Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr, the top American finisher at 1 under.
Someday, the 24-year old from San Clemente, Calif., hopes those fans are trailing her around the course.
“I’ve spent a few tournaments behind Paula, Cristie and Natalie (Gulbis). I’m sitting there going, `I want the crowd,”’ O’Toole said. “I’m hoping that this will bring that for me. I know over time that with good finishes, and hopefully a win soon, that I’ll have that.”
O’Toole is splitting her time this season between the LPGA Tour and the Futures Tour, where she captured a title and a $17,500 paycheck in April. But this was more than she could’ve envisioned.
“Surreal,” she said. “As a golfer and as a competitor, I didn’t win. So I’m still frustrated about that and still bummed out.
“But at the same time, if I was going into this event and someone said, `Hey, would you take a top 10?’ I would have said, `Yeah, great.”’