The Balancing Act: Golf, Modeling and Motherhood
by Randy Mastronicola
Not too many athletes can claim to be a topnotch professional golfer, a high-profile model and a television broadcaster all in one, but Blair O’Neal has all of these niches covered.
Currently the co-host of School of Golf on the Golf Channel, Blair spent 10 years as a pro golfer while simultaneously establishing a successful modeling career. She has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated (including the swimsuit issue), Maxim, Golf Digest and Men’s Health.
Blair’s golf credentials include being named the Women’s 5A Arizona State Golf Champion at a young age and attending Arizona State University on a golf scholarship. She competed all four years on the women’s Sun Devil golf team and was crowned a two-time NCAA women’s long-drive champion.
Blair sat down with Cigar & Spirits to talk about her passion for golf, her newest career as a television broadcaster, and her role as mom to two young boys.
Cigar & Spirits Magazine: What was your initial inspiration to succeed in a golf career?
Blair O’Neal: I think my initial drive was competing. I loved to compete, and I still do. It was competing and then putting in the work to see improvement. I loved to see improvement, so I loved to practice and work really hard. I started playing tournaments when I was 11. All these girls had been playing for years before, so I was behind. Then in like two years, I was catching up and winning these junior tournaments with girls who have been playing for a long time.
I don’t play professionally anymore, but I think having that drive when I was younger helped me to push myself and create the career I have today.
How has your drive to succeed evolved over the years?
My career has shifted to television and a modeling career, but everything I’ve done in the past has helped me to get to where I am now. All the experience I had playing on tour and traveling and grinding all those years as a professional athlete has helped me now to be able to go on television to talk about the game and what it is to play at that level.
You are transferring the skills and that tenacity as a competitor to your media career.
I don’t feel there’s a cap or a limit of what I can or can’t do in my career. To this day, I’ve done things I never thought I would’ve done. I just never know what opportunities will come my way. I’ve always been open to accepting opportunities, even if I’m really scared of them. I jumped into television and threw myself into it. I had never done it. I push myself to succeed, and that inner competitiveness has helped me do things I wouldn’t have thought of doing.
You still play, right?
I play in celebrity events now, which for me is perfect. I get to also feed my competitiveness because celebrities are so competitive. [laughs]
Oh, no doubt. How many have you done over the years?
Oh my gosh. A lot. Too many to count. It has been amazing to meet all these people.
Was there ever anyone that you were like, “Ooh, I’m in the same airspace as this famous person.”?
A lot of them. I think probably one of the biggest ones was Justin Timberlake. I played in the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe, and he was playing as well. Charles Barkley, too.
You shared some cocktails with Justin Timberlake and Charles Barkley after the tournament, right?
We ended up hanging out at the Cliche Cigar Lounge at Caesar’s Palace and having drinks after the round. Cigars were being smoked. Now whenever I play in these celebrity events and I see them, it’s like a little reunion for us.
How do you balance modeling, your media goals and your family? I know that you recently had a boy. Congratulations.
Thank you. I just had a second boy. So, I have two boys. A two-and-a-half-year-old and a an eight-week-old.
How do you balance all that?
To be honest, I’m still figuring that out. My career keeps me so busy, and my family keeps me busy. I really strive to try to do the best in every area, but ultimately, I am trying to figure it out. It’s a balancing act, and I don’t want to let anything go. I love to work and compete and do all the things I did before I had children, but I have a lot more in my life now. So, it’s cutting out some of the things that maybe aren’t as important.
Do you have any international courses that you like? For golf travelers, where would you recommend playing?
Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic. I competed on The Big Break and there’s a beautiful course on the ocean in the Dominican gray spot. There are also some great courses in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
I always try to put that information out, those recommendations. We do a lot of travel pieces.
Do you if you have a go-to cocktail or a drink when capping off a memorable day of golfing.
I used to play a tournament at Pebble Beach [California] every year. After the tournament, one of my favorite moments was to bundle up on the patio of Spanish Bay with the bag pipers playing or at the Lodge overlooking the 18th hole with a nice class of cab, champaign or gin-and-tonic. There is no better setting for a libation than Pebble Beach, in my opinion.
For 2023, you’re doing School of Golf. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that?
Yes. We’ll be filming with School of Golf on the Golf Channel. The filming starts up pretty soon, and we will be including celebrity events. I also just finished playing in the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions alongside the Ladies Professional Golf Association [LPGA], and I’ll play in a number of celebrity events throughout the year coming up.
Were you always a student of the game?
Blair: Yes. I love the game of golf, and I just loved competing and improving. I loved putting in the time and the work. When I was younger, parents would ask my dad how he got me to practice so much. He’d say, “She just loves to practice.” I did. I was out there all the time. I’d be out there before school playing a couple of holes on the golf course, I’d go to school, and I’d be out there after school. When it got dark, the range would light up and we’d be out practicing.
I was obsessed with the game. If you asked me when I was 11 what I wanted to do, I’d say I wanted to be a professional golfer. Looking on that now with two young kids, it’s kind of an odd thing. To be that young and be that decisive about what you want to do. And to have that much drive.
That’s very interesting.
I think I was just meant to follow this path. When I was out on tour all those years, I thought my ultimate only goal was just to play on an LPGA tour, and that’s all I wanted to do. Then I experienced change and developed who I was. Then I realized there’s this other career I can do too. So, it evolved into this new career. It started as a very focused goal and has evolved.
You’re in a very small percentage of people who have such diverse opportunities.
I’m absolutely grateful. A lot of people have entered my life at certain moments and helped me in my career. Even working with Golf Channel, the timing has fallen into place. I never really knew exactly the path it was going to take, but I always just kept doing what I felt like I was meant to do.
What would you like your legacy to be-personally and professionally?
That’s a hard one because who am I to say what my legacy will be? I do think just being a kind person, working really hard, being enjoyable to work with and coming prepared are definitely things that I hope stand out in my career. I feel like those things are really important. I think those things have gotten me a long way. That’s kind of the core foundation of who I am, I think.
Hopefully when my kids are older, they will look back and say, “My mom was a badass mom and did all these things. She had a career, and she was a great mom, and she was loving.” I absolutely love being a mom and being there for them. I hope to mold them into beautiful human beings.