Pressure Off, Game Oon
By Kenneth Mashinchi
Natasha Andrea Oon’s historic individual season led the Spartans to championship-level heights, and a new perspective on golf propels her as she starts her professional career.
Turning a negative into a positive — that is the essence of the game of golf. Eagles and birdies lead to scores under par, and having the lowest score, often in the negative, leads to victory.
Natasha Andrea Oon, ’21 Business Administration, ’23 MA Interdisciplinary Studies, thrives in the negative space of golf, and her dominance was on full display for the Spartans this spring.
Oon was the first SJSU golfer to be a first team All-American in 25 years; finished second individually at the 2022 NCAA Championships in May; received the 2022 Inkster Award presented by Workday, recognizing the highest-ranked women's Division I collegiate golfer in her final year of eligibility; qualified as a finalist for two of women’s golf’s most prestigious individual honors — the Honda Sport Award for Golf and the ANNIKA Award — and became Mountain West Player of the Year. Her play spearheaded a historic season for the university, which included a record-breaking win at the Mountain West Championships and advancing to match play at the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history.
“Everything just clicked one day, and it was crazy, I think it's definitely like a Cinderella story,” says Oon. “I think San José State is one of those places where if you have potential, this is the place to grow it. I'm really grateful that I chose San José State. It's been a really, really fun journey.”
Natasha Andrea Oon (second from right) and the San José State women's golf team celebrated the first Mountain West title in school history by jumping into the lake at Mission Hills Country Club in Hayward, California. The Spartans won by a record 30 strokes. Photos: Courtesy of SJSU Athletics.
Before slipping on Cinderella’s slipper at SJSU, Oon’s golf skills were known around the world. Born in Indonesia, Oon began accompanying her dad to the driving range at 4 years old.
Success came shortly after. After moving to the Philippines, Oon won her first junior world championship in San Diego at age 6. Growing up, Oon wasn’t just facing the city’s or region’s best; she was playing on the world stage, taking on Southeast Asia’s best over and over again.
“I think those were the days that made me really good because I went through a lot of pressure every single tournament,” says Oon. “We got to compete with girls from Thailand, Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia.”
Oon wasn’t just winning tournaments — at age 12, she hit a hole-in-one that earned her family a new Volvo.
“I remember my mom calling my dad, and my dad's like, ‘Oh, stop joking. What are you trying to pull?’” recalls Oon. “We have a running joke in our family. We call the car Vanessa. It was just very special.”
Oon says coming to the United States to attend SJSU changed and improved her game, from finding a coach to shifting her mentality on practice and training with a team. San José State University provided an opportunity to join a program that could grow as Oon’s game did.
“I definitely was good in my country, but worldwide I think I was just a little bit above average, so I felt l had to compete somewhere that would make my game much sharper,” says Oon.
Her Spartan career had a storybook start in 2018, when she won her first-ever college tournament on her 17th birthday. Oon earned second team All-American honors and Mountain West Women’s Golf Freshman of the Year. The good times continued into summer 2019, when Oon won the 117th Malaysian Amateur Open women’s championship by six strokes.
After a solid fall season in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Oon to go home to Malaysia for a few months. Even with the shortened season, she earned honorable mention All-American honors and was the Mountain West Player of the Year.
In spring 2021, a stress fracture put Oon in a boot and ended her season before it began. Two years removed from competing in a collegiate competition, Oon had to face this setback and find a way to come back better than ever. The change would have nothing to do with swing mechanics and everything to do with shifting her mindset.
“When I was a junior golfer, I took losses pretty hard. My brain would say, ‘Let's not lose, so we don't have to go through that,’” she says. “So when COVID and the injury happened, it was a mixture of being sad for not competing, but also a breath of relief. I could finally check my mental health and look at tomorrow and say, ‘Everything's going to be OK.’
“A lot of people don't think athletes go through these things, but you never know if you're going to be as good as yesterday. So you really just try to be better. But out there, there's only so many things you can control.”
“I think San José State is one of those places where if you have potential, this is the place to grow it. I'm really grateful that I chose San José State. It's been a really, really fun journey.”
— Natasha Andrea Oon
Freeing her mind to play golf, Oon finished in the top 10 in every tournament except one during the 2021–2022 season. Her second place finish at the NCAA Championships showcased all the abilities that make her one of the best in women’s golf.
“She was amazing,” says Women’s Golf Head Coach Dana Dormann, ’90 Finance. “We would say, ‘Hit it here,’ and she would hit it right there. Incredible ball striking, knock in a few putts. I’m so, so proud of her.”
The SJSU team followed Oon’s lead, taking down No.1-ranked Stanford twice to win the first two spring tournaments before the historic appearance in match play at the NCAA Championships.
Oon qualified for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, where the top 75 amateur players play the legendary Georgia course. Though it was a dream come true, she turned it down to play in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Chevron Championship — one of the tour’s major championships. It was the third time Oon had played in a pro tournament. In June, Oon officially launched her professional career.
“I just wanted to see how good I can be,” says Oon. “I think my perspective changed during COVID for sure. When you're an athlete, you should play for yourself, not for others. And if you make it, great. If you don't make it, it's fine. You can do other things in life.
“I'm just excited because my college career has put me in this position where I can do it, and I'm proud of myself for how far I've come.”
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