Rachel Rohanna and Shaquille O'Neal

Rachel Rohanna teams with Shaq
By Mike Dudurich • April 28, 2022

Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.

Not really sure if Rachel Rohanna has been a big believer in the old say about being in the right place at the right time.

Chances are the Waynesburg native is a believer now.

She was just getting her 2022 season underway on the LPGA Tour, making her second foray onto the elite level of ladies’ professional golf. She got there by putting together a strong season on the then-Symetra Tour, finishing in the top 10 of the money list.

As a member of the top 10 finishers, she was invited to a dinner with a group from Epson, a company that three years ago partnered with Shaquille O’Neal, the gigantic former college and NBA basketball.

And an LPGA dinner to honor the 10 graduates to the LPGA Tour, Rohanna found herself sitting at a table with several Epson execs, leading to something she calls coming from “out of the blue.”

“There were some marketing guys at the table, and they were batting ideas around all night,” she said. “The next thing I knew, they asked me about doing a photo shoot with Shaq. And it couldn’t have been more awesome.”

The day of the shoot in Atlanta started at 5 a.m. and included not only the photo shoot but also some commercials featuring O’Neal and Rohanna.

“It really was cool, one of the best days of my life,” she said. “It’s just below the birth of my daughter and my wedding day.”

She chuckles when asked about her impressions of O’Neal.

“He was honestly 2 feet taller than me,” she said. “And his hands were like 10 times bigger than mine. They were big and soft. I’m kind of used to looking up to people, but he held my golf club and it looked like a toothpick in his hand.”

Just as Rohanna said in describing her return to LPGA play, she said she really wasn’t intimidated by meeting O’Neal.

“I wasn’t nervous or star-struck at all,” she said. “The most nerve-wracking thing was having to act in front of other people. I was reading my lines off the teleprompter, and I guess I was doing OK because they said I could ad lib if I wanted.”

The selection of Rohanna to be one of the spokespersons -- or Tour Ambassadors as they’re known – is perfect for the LPGA Tour. She is believed to be the first mom to graduate from the Epson Tour onto the LPGA Tour.

And she will be one of EPSON ’s most fervent advocates, based on what the company has done at the outset of the sponsorship. In the first of five years of sponsorship, each of the 10 graduates received $10,000 to help them with travel expenses to get the LPGA season started.

The company has lowered the cost of entry fees by 10 percent and established guaranteed purses of $200,000.

EPSON will also extend the graduates ambassador opportunities to grow women’s golf on a larger stage. And EPSON is going give EPSON Tour a boost, raising total prize money to a record $4.41 million.

“I can’t say enough about EPSON,” Rohanna said. “They truly want to help others, want to see female athletes succeed. They’re going to do a lot of good for women golfers.”

Rohanna has had two starts this season on the LPGA and while she didn’t make a cut in either one, she felt good about how she was hitting the ball.

“My ball-striking was decent, but my putting got so bad that I putted when I could with a wedge,” she said. “I bought a new putter with more loft to see if that helped. I’d been hitting it so well. If I hit the ball like this the rest of the year, I feel good about that.”

“It always blows my mind that people have never heard of the Epson Tour,” said Rohanna, “formally the Symetra Tour. To have someone like Shaq … he’s a great guy in general, to have this many followers, and announce it and actually be enthusiastic about it, I think it’s great for everyone.

“It’s going to be huge.”

Rohanna invited Shaq to a pro-am and to visit the family farm in Waynesburg. She said the big man said he’d consider the visit and that he’d really like to witness a calf being born.

“The way I’m thinking about it,” said Kevin Garton, Epson’s Head of Brand Strategy and Marketing, “is it’s just the beginning.”

About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.