There’s been a lot of mom talk on the LPGA of late, and at the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, that extends to the celebrity division, where Blair O’Neal plans to compete for the first time as a mother of two.
O’Neal, who is due to have her second son Dec. 3, plans to compete Jan. 19-22 at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando. The event brings together LPGA winners and 50 celebrities, with former pro athletes including Major League Baseball stars John Smoltz, Roger Clemens and Justin Verlander, NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen and country music stars Toby Keith and Lee Brice.
Danielle Kang won the 2022 edition by three strokes over Brooke Henderson.
For a while, O’Neal was the only woman who competed in the celebrity division of the TOC until LPGA Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, another mother of two, started playing a couple years ago. Sorenstam lost in a playoff last January to former MLB pitcher Derek Lowe.
O’Neal, 41, played collegiate golf at Arizona State and started a modeling career after college. In 2010, she won the Golf Channel’s Big Break Dominican Republic and then played on the then-Symetra Tour for several seasons before joining the “School of Golf” show in 2015.
In 2020, O’Neal competed in the TOC while six months pregnant with son Chrome and finished sixth, playing from the same set of tees as the men.
Blair O’Neal reports that son Chrome is obsessed with golf. (courtesy photo)
For O’Neal and husband Jeff Keiser, growing their family has been a challenge. It took several years for O’Neal to get pregnant with Chrome, undergoing six IUI (intrauterine insemination) procedures before finding success.
This time around, after a series of three IUI procedures, the couple decided to undergo IVF last spring. After the first embryo transfer failed to implant, O’Neal fell ill with West Nile virus last fall.
“I thought I was dying,” she said, “It was awful.”
After O’Neal recovered, the couple was down to their last frozen embryo.
“We had to become OK with the fact that if it didn’t work, that it was alright,” said O’Neal. “That was just the path that we were supposed to be on. I feel like once we got to that point and didn’t expect everything just to work out perfectly, it made us a little bit calmer, made us little bit happier through the process, that it was going to be OK.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 5 women in the United States with no prior births struggle with infertility, though it’s a subject that’s not often talked about.
O’Neal said they didn’t tell anyone in their families about fertility treatments that first time around.
“I get it when people don’t talk about it,” said O’Neal, “because it’s just so sensitive and you don’t want to have to explain yourself all the time when it doesn’t work. It’s just like delivering bad news when you’re already handling it yourself.”
When she did get pregnant, O’Neal shared the good news on social media. The ugly comments and body shaming that followed, however, was the worst she’d ever experienced on social platforms. O’Neal said she has shared less this time around, “just because, who wants that?”
She reports that son Chrome is obsessed with golf. His simple mantra “see ball, see hole” would serve most well.
This week, O’Neal will be on hand to host HGV’s Viva! Las Vegas celebrity pro-am Sept. 19-20 at Bali Hai Golf Club. O’Neal, who already has her “School of Golf” shows taped for the rest of the year, always envisioned herself as a working mom.
At the TOC in Orlando, organizers have announced a three-night private concert series that will include En Vogue, Grammy-winning country-pop star Maren Morris, pop star Ellie Goulding and Paris Hilton.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to be there,” said O’Neal of the LPGA’s biggest party.
It’s family tradition.