JAMES CITY — Tiffany Joh had no intention of entering this week’s Kingsmill Championship. She’d missed four cuts in as many appearances here and found the greens baffling, more than enough reason to hang at home in San Diego for another week of what she calls “dawn patrol” surfing sessions.
Then her host — Bob Armstrong lives on Kingsmill’s River Course — played the banana bread card, promising Joh a larger stash of friend Sandy Fagan’s addictive specialty than in previous years.
“They gave me three loaves,” Joh said. “Regardless of what happened today, it was a win.”
What happened Thursday was a 3-under-par 68, Joh’s lowest score of the season and her best in nine tours around Kingsmill. The bogey-free round leaves Joh three shots behind leader Mika Miyazato.
And what happened after Joh signed her scoreboard was a charmingly eccentric laugh track of an interview that touched on a spoiled peanut butter sandwich, snapped surfboard and her flair for YouTube and Instagram videos.
Only one top-10 finish in 111 LPGA Tour events? Sure, Joh hoped for better after graduating from UCLA in 2009 and becoming the first four-time All-American in program history. But when you reside in your native SoCal, surf for fun and play golf to make the rent, life is pretty darn good.
And props to Joh for understanding as much and being able to laugh at herself.
“I think that’s her goal, to enjoy golf, enjoy … life,” said Evertte Nini, her caddie for the last five tournaments, a change prompted when Joh’s previous bagman enrolled in graduate school.
In their second event together, last month’s Swinging Skirts Classic near San Francisco, Joh tied for 11th, the second-best finish of her career. She was the runner-up in the 2011 Navistar Classic in Alabama, finishing a distant five shots back as 16-year-old Lexi Thompson earned her first tour victory.
“I was merely a speed bump on her way to making history,” Joh said on a recent LPGA podcast.
Joh says and does a lot of things, many of them funny, though she insists Jane Park is the tour’s most amusing player. Most of Joh’s antics revolve around social media — I highly recommend her YouTube, Instagram and Twitter accounts — and there you’ll find odes to Ron Burgundy and “The Office” and a photo of her surfboard that broke in two last week when a wave hit it just right.
“Yeah, I was just like paddling and trying to get over a set wave,” Joh said, “and if it’s going to break on you, you do a turtle roll, so you flip over and let it break over you.”
Joh’s 2012 YouTube spoof of Freaky Nasty’s “When I Dip You Dip” has more than 99,000 views, is titled “Grip It” and stars Tour colleague Beth Bader. There’s also “I’m about to make a snowman,” “What’s Up with Lexi” and “Paddow,” a song Joh wrote about a surfing trip to El Salvador.
But don’t look for any additions to her YouTube portfolio any time soon.
“I feel like nowadays … it’s all about like the 14-second Instagram video,” said Joh, equally adept with her phone and guitar. “No one has the attention span to watch an entire two-minute YouTube clip.”
Two years ago, some of Joh’s friends at her gym purchased adult-sized animal onesies. Joh had to join the weirdness and immediately scoured Amazon.com, settling on a unicorn.
She wore the unicorn to dinner at the season-opening tournament in the Bahamas, strolled through the casino at the Atlantis resort and ended up posing for photos with an amused wedding party. She’s since added a dinosaur onesie.
Joh played Thursday with Grace Na and SooBin Kim, neither of whom she knows well. Yet as they strolled up 18, they looked and sounded like fast friends.
“I’ve never played with them before,” Joh said, “so I guess SooBin and Grace are like best friends. So it was funny because there were a couple times they were walking down the cart path with their hand over each other’s shoulder, and I totally felt like the third wheel. At one point I think I just kind of scooted in between them, like did anyone ask for a little Joh-reo filling?”
Brittany Lincicome has played with Joh.
“It’s been a long time,” Lincicome said. “I wish I could play with her more, though, because she’s kind of like me and likes to have fun on the golf course. I think her and I would be talking too much to actually play golf, would probably get in trouble. …
“She’ll just send me a Snapchat, and the stuff she’s (sent) to me, I don’t even know what to reply back. It’s so funny.”
Joh birdied Nos. 7, 9 and 10 Thursday, each from inside 10 feet. She credited her ball-striking, which led to the following exchange:
Joh: “Pretty much just ball-striking, which is funny because I honestly did not even take my clubs out of the travel cover last week. Like there was a peanut butter sandwich in there from like the second round of Prattville (Ala., two weeks ago) in there.”
Me: “What color was the bread?”
Joh: “I mean, it was still brown.”
Me: “Was it really?”
Joh: “It was very brown.”
Me: “Different shade of brown?”
Joh: “Yeah, it was not like a delicious brown.”
Joh, Na and Kim were the first group off the first tee Thursday, at 7 a.m. So was her subsequent 68 evidence that she’s a morning person?
“Yeah, like I usually wake up at 5 a.m., regardless,” Joh said, “because I like to do a little dawn patrol surf session. Here not so much. The beach is kind of far away, and I check the waves anyway and it’s flat, so I can’t do that. But yeah, I’m typically a morning person. I’m kind of an all-the-time person; let’s be honest.”
David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.