Tiffany Joh, of San Diego, is one of five golfers to have won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links twice, and is the last to achieve it. In 2006, Joh defeated Kimberly Kim, 6 and 5, at Walking Stick Golf Course in Pueblo, Colo., and two years later, she edged Jennifer Song, 2 and 1, in the final at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. Joh, a member of the USA Teams for the 2008 Women’s World Amateur and Curtis Cup Match, was a two-time first-team All-American at UCLA. She was also the 2008 NCAA individual runner-up, losing a playoff to Azahara Munoz of Arizona State. Joh turned professional in 2009 and won two events on the Futures Tour. One of the most gregarious players on the LPGA Tour, Joh is currently in her fourth season on that circuit. Her best finish is a solo second to Lexi Thompson at the LPGA Navistar Classic in Alabama in 2011.
You had one of the finest championship-match performances in WAPL history in beating Kimberly Kim. You were 11 under par (with concessions) over the 31 holes, including an eagle 2. How good was that performance?
Kimberly Kim was just on fire that week. I think she beat Mina Harigae [in the quarterfinals] by like 8 and 7 [actually 9 and 7]. So I went into that round thinking I was the underdog. I didn’t think about how well I was playing at the time because I was just in a match-play mindset, which is just doing better than your opponent on one specific hole. I didn’t realize how well I was playing until I looked at the scorecard afterward and said, wow. But that’s the beauty of match play in that your game elevates to how well you need to play.
You were coming off a strong freshman season at UCLA, but hadn’t won an event. What did that win do for your career going forward?
It gave me loads of confidence. I played consistently that year, but I hadn’t really won anything. So I think a part of me felt that I was good enough to get a lot of top 10s in tournaments, but not enough to hold the hardware. For me, that [title] really kick-started my career. After that I realized I could win some big events.
Winning a USGA championship generally brings some perks. A few came your way after that 2006 WAPL triumph.
If you would have asked me right before I had played in the  Public Links if I would get to play on a World Am Team, a Spirit [International] Team and a Curtis Cup Team, I would have probably slapped you in the face. It’s funny how things work out. Things like [the 2006 WAPL win] can lead to other bigger things.
At that 2006 WAPL, you wound up facing future UCLA teammate Mariajo Uribe (2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion), of Colombia, in the quarterfinals. Was there some recruiting going on?
That’s kind of how we first met. Right before the tournament started, Coach [Carrie Forsyth] had texted me and said, “Maria Jose Uribe is one of my top recruits and make sure you say hi to her and don’t embarrass the program.” And then I got paired against her. She jokes around to this day that I tricked her into losing. She said, “You were telling me all these jokes in Spanish and the next thing I know, I had lost. I knew your match-play strategy.” I told her it wasn’t on purpose.
Two years later, you produced a second WAPL title. Was it tougher the second time?
I think I was more surprised … just because in medal play (qualifying) I didn’t play particularly well. And the [final] match against Jen Song was really a squeaker. It wasn’t like when I played [Kimberly] Kim and after awhile I thought, if I just hold on, I have this in the bag. I thought the second one was a bit of a shock to me, but at the same time, I fought harder for it. [In 2006,] those  holes flew by so fast. The one against Jen Song, it felt like it took forever. By the time I finished that round, I was so tired. I felt like I had aged 10 years. And because of that, it means a little bit more to me.
How did winning those two WAPL titles and playing in big international competitions like the Curtis Cup and Women’s World Amateur help your transition into professional golf?
More than anything, it taught me how to deal with pressure. I don’t care what anyone says, there is no level of pressure that’s as high as playing for your country. I felt it at the Curtis Cup. I felt it at the World Am. That environment, especially when you are wearing the red, white and blue, I’ve never been as nervous as that. In my rookie year, I was in contention at the Navistar and I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I was when I was about to tee off in singles [on the Old Course at St. Andrews] playing against Carly Booth in the final round of the Curtis Cup.
What are your thoughts about the WAPL being retired?
A part of me was definitely really bummed about it. But at the same time, if you look at the field for the Public Links, it was kind of becoming identical to the Women’s Amateur. The same girls were playing, so their decision makes sense. In terms of the competition, [the two championships] felt really similar, but the courses were way different. But when you showed up and were warming up, you were doing so with [many of] the same people.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.