Carlota Ciganda’s name may not currently have the same effect on the LPGA Tour as it does over in Europe.
But based on her success so far on the Ladies European Tour, it’s a safe bet that it won’t be long until the Spanish young gun is making her mark on Golf’s Global Tour.
The Pamplona, Spain native made her first impression as a rookie on the Ladies European Tour when she won the 2012 Deloitte Ladies Open in Holland.
But she didn’t stop there.
Another victory at Suzhou Taihu Open in China along with 10 additional top-10 finishes landed her at the top of the money list at the end of the season. She became the first player since Laura Davies in 1985 to claim both the Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year honors.
“I didn’t think about it until I got it,” said Ciganda of the accolades. “I was just thinking about my game and trying to play good golf all year. I had no expectations because it was my first year, so I didn’t know how it was going to be and I was just trying to play my game. I’m very happy, I couldn’t believe it. It’s such an honor.”
For someone who proudly represents her country, traveling on the European Tour to places like Dubai and South Africa seemed fascinating to an Arizona State University graduate. Not to mention its proximity to home in Spain, allowing for optimal time with family, friends and her coach.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Ciganda. “In Europe, you go to some really nice places. Like, I went home back in May this year and I played in Turkey, Holland and Germany, from one country to another.
“I played on the LET Access Series before qualifying for the LET and, you know, everyone is so close on that tour. It’s like a big family. On Sundays we all go out and have a few beers. I don’t go out much but it’s fun to just connect with the other players. I just like playing back home because I like seeing my friends and family.”
Although Ciganda was considered a rookie on the LPGA Tour last season after earning her card at the 2011 Final Qualifying Tournament, she only contended in one event. But this year, Ciganda plans to compete part-time on both the LPGA and LET.
It’s been a tough transition for the Spaniard, who says life on the LPGA Tour is quite different than playing over in Europe.
“The life here is a little more individual, a little lonelier,” said Ciganda. “But I think the competition is better here and I think there are great things that I have to learn here. I’m really happy.”
But the 23-year-old finds comfort in her lifelong friend and caddie, Javier Arocevo, who used to practice law in Spain for more than three years. The two instantly became friends during their junior golf years and became a team when he started caddying for her in amateur events across Europe. She says life on Tour would be much more difficult if he wasn’t on her bag.
“He came to caddy for me at the qualifying tournament for LPGA three years ago,” said Ciganda. “After that he asked me if he could come with me and I was like ‘yea’. Easy decision, it was perfect. He loves traveling and it’s nice to have him around. Without him I don’t think I could do it. It’s nice to have a close friend here because it’s hard to be on your own.”
So far in her first full season as an LPGA Tour pro, Ciganda has managed to build upon her success from the LET. She opened up her year with a tie for sixth at the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open, but it wasn’t until she placed second at the North Texas LPGA Shootout that she gained some attention.
But Ciganda continues to dominate overseas as well. She notched her third career LET victory in June last month at the UniCredit Ladie German Open. With stellar performances on both the LET and LPGA Tours, Ciganda has strengthened her campaign to earn a spot on the European Solheim Cup team.
“That would be a dream,” said Ciganda says of making the team. “I don’t feel that I am in yet, like anything can happen. You can have good tournaments and bad tournaments. I’m pretty confident that I can be on that team and I would love to help Europe win again. I love playing on a team and also individual, so getting the chance to be a teammate and play for your continent then that’s incredible. I would love to be there.”