With three LPGA Tour events canceled in Asia out of an abundance of precaution for the coronavirus, players scheduled to compete in Thailand, Singapore and China were left with a lot of time on their hands. Some went home. A few stayed in Australia to make a Ladies European Tour start. Others went to South Florida or Arizona or other warm climates to work on their games.
A few found an unlikely competitive outlet on the Cactus Tour, the southwest developmental circuit that helps a lot of young players prepare their games for the next steps in their careers. This week, that tour saw some unlikely and familiar names on the leaderboard. At the Legends course at Morongo Country Club in Beaumont, Calif., LPGA Tour veteran Carlota Ciganda shot five under par for 54 holes and won the Cactus Tour event by seven shots. Tiffany Joh, who played one round with Ciganda, finished one under and in fifth place while rookie Haley Moore finished T14.
“Yeah, I didn’t realize Carlota was playing,” Joh said. “I got paired with her on Friday (the final round, as the event was played Wednesday through Friday) and I was like, ‘Girl, you just won a million-dollar bonus. What are you doing out here?’ But she hadn’t played the Australian events. So, for the last four months, she’d only played one event in Boca Raton. She wanted to tune up and wanted something to do in the off weeks.”
Joh hadn’t intended to play the Cactus Tour. After the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open, she went to New Zealand with her parents for a week. “They already had this trip planned and are going to stay (in New Zealand) for about a month,” Joh said. “So, when I didn’t have anywhere to go, I decided to tag along as the third wheel in their romantic getaway. Alison Whitaker was supposed to provide commentary for Thailand and Singapore, so she went too and hung out with us for a week.”
After sightseeing with family and friends, Joh flew back home to San Diego where she still had three weeks to kill.
“If I don’t have a tournament to prepare for, I have trouble practicing,” Joh said. “I would be a surf bum and live at the beach all day. Then I saw that there are a couple of Cactus Tour events that are pretty close to home. I live in inland San Diego, so Morongo is only about an hour and a half away. It was very commutable. The Cactus Tour is pretty mellow with how you register, so I got in.
“It was really fun. You play in carts and you move fairly fast. And the competition is pretty strong. In one of the rounds, I played with Britany Yada and Caroline Inglis, both of whom have LPGA experience. Caroline is actually making her return to the LPGA Tour in Phoenix. So, she was using this as a comeback tournament.
“The first round I played with Veronica Felibert (another former LPGA Tour player),” Joh said. “Her coach, Jamie Mulligan, was on the bag and we’re kindred spirits because we both love golf and maybe love surfing a little bit more. And he also works with Patrick Cantlay and some others. So, I was talking with him about how people take their golf swings from the practice tee to the course, and we agreed that, honestly, there’s no secret or shortcut. You just have to play in enough events. It’s about learning to score with what you have. How you do that is with competitive reps.
“Everyone has their way of doing it. Some guys are going to play money games at their (home) clubs. I don’t do that because, living in San Diego, I don’t have a lot of pros who live in this area, and I’m not a gambler at all. I just have to play as many competitive rounds as possible. That’s the way I feel prepared. For me, playing these Cactus events is perfect. One day I had a 7:00 a.m. tee time so, even though the wakeup call was 4:00 a.m., I was home at 1:00 and I still got to surf in the evening. That was the best of all worlds.”
Joh was torn about whether or not to play again in the second Cactus Tour event at Morongo (a different course at the same site). But then she checked the surf forecast. When it didn’t look great, she entered.
“I’ll be playing the Cactus Tour again next week,” Joh said. “Getting in the kind of work I need.”