Tiffany Joh’s first full day at home after announcing her retirement from the LPGA was filled with three surf sessions followed by… a trip to the driving range.
“I thought what should I do now?” she said with a laugh.
Most of the conversations with Joh are filled with laughter. On a tour where job security can be reduced to a handful of dollars, self-esteem is often defined by score, and lonely nights in hotel rooms add a sometimes crippling invisible weight – God bless Tiffany Joh, the LPGA’s chief spirit lifter.
Joh didn’t plan on letting too many people know that after nearly 11 years, she would be leaving the tour to take on an upcoming college coaching position. But then she told Ben Harpring about Women’s Golf in Toledo, Ohio during the LPGA Classic marathon and one story later everyone knew. It turned out to be a blessing, she said.
“I think if you are not in the race every week and are some kind of journeyman,” said Joh, “you don’t really know if you have an influence because you don’t really have such a large platform.”
Throughout the week in Toledo, player after player came to Joh and thanked her and remembered how she joked and changed the mood in an uncomfortable situation. Or just made a bad day better.
“You don’t have to be crazy successful to have an effect on people,” she said. “You can only do it with small interactions.”
Roberta Bowman, LPGA’s Chief Brand and Communications Officer, called Joh a force of nature on tour and commented on her ability to bring people together. Joh did this last year during the pandemic through the Race of Unity and helped raise funds for the Renee Powell Grant. Last week she launched a GoFundMe page for her best friend Jane Park, who raised more than $ 80,000 in support after Park’s daughter Grace was hospitalized during the Volunteers of America Classic in Texas where she is in a critical situation State.
“I think Tiff’s legacy is showing the power of authenticity,” Bowman wrote in an email. “She is a complete original.”
Joh, 34, didn’t start applying for jobs until the week of Grand Rapids (June). Having never done a résumé before, she relied heavily on surfing buddies who had “normal” jobs. A friend suggested that she split her Symetra Tour and LPGA experience so it looked like she had two jobs.
“What do you wear to the interview?” She asked. “And when it’s on Zoom, do you have to wear pants?”
Joh got a job during the VOA in Dallas.
Growing up in a house bordering the Rancho Bernardo Country Club in San Diego, Joh often spent evenings in the back yard retrieving the balls her father Gun hit on a nearby hole. A 12-year-old Joh, tired of playing fetch, asked if she could hit a couple. Her father, an inventive accounting professor at San Diego State, threaded a fishing line through their range balls and then wrapped them up to keep them from trespassing.
The lively pre-teen was thrilled.
Congratulations to @tiffjoh on a great LPGA career. We hope we made your last stop special. I wish you all the best on your new path ⛳️💙
: @ 4thFlCreative pic.twitter.com/5QZY8ZxoRw
– Marathon Classic Presented by Dana (@MarathonLPGA) July 10, 2021
Joh won two USGA titles as an amateur – the now defunct US Women’s Amateur Public Links in 2006 and 2008 – and was the first four-time All-American at UCLA. In 2011 she joined the LPGA.
Known for her music videos, her dozen or so onesies, and her self-deprecating humor, Joh turned to jokes in 2017 to fend off a cancer diagnosis she was taking seriously.
When the doctor called and said that as an Asian she wasn’t even on the radar for melanoma, Joh replied, “You know, I always suspected that I had a little Caucasian in me. I don’t blush when I drink alcohol; I am not lactose intolerant; I’m surprisingly bad at math and decent parking. “
The optimistic Joh defeated cancer and used her story to warn others of the need to be examined and covered up.
LPGA lay chaplain Cris Stevens will miss many things about Joh including her heart for worship and her guitar. Joh played guitar throughout her career and sang at touring meetings and Good Friday services.
Stevens noted that Joh brought the Junior Clinics to life on tour, and she brought the tour closer together with her musical skits about the similarities in professional life.
“I think it deepened the community out there,” she said.
Park and Joh were partners when the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational was last held. They have been best friends since they were 13. Unsurprisingly, after missing the cut at her last event on tour, Joh flew back to Dallas to check on Grace and Jane and her husband Pete Godfrey.
“There is still a lot to wait,” said Joh. “You can really see the inner strength of a person when you go through a crisis like this one.”
Looking back at events, her belief in things that happen for a reason becomes even stronger. At KPMG Women’s PGA in Atlanta, Joh stayed with Park and her family and enjoyed a good time.
Joh’s old iPhone 4 is a bit of a running joke on tour, and over the next week in Texas, during a 6-hour delay, her cell phone finally died. Little did she know how much she would rely on a new phone in the weeks to come after Grace fell ill. Even her missed cut in Dallas – which included a “spectacular back nine collapse” – now makes sense.
“It really had a bigger purpose,” she said. “I felt that I could help and serve them better.”
Tiffany Joh leaves the LPGA untitled, but what she has accomplished during her tour leaves a far greater legacy than any trophy.
She is no ordinary Joh.