Not much has really taken Kyla Inaba by surprise in her first full season as a professional golfer.
Just as she suspected, the 26-year-old from Kelowna has experienced her share of both ups and downs playing on the Cactus Tour.
Inaba, who moved to Phoenix in early January for the winter and spring schedule, made a promising pro debut Jan. 30 with a fifth-place finish at Club West.
However, in her next five events, the former UBC Thunderbirds golf team captain managed just one top-20 finish, with an 18th on Feb. 27.
Then, on her latest stop on the Cactus Tour this week at Seville near Phoenix, Inaba showed signs that her game may be rounding into form with a fourth-place showing in a field of 38.
After scores of 72-73 the first two days, Inaba finished strong with a bogey-free 69 in round three.
“Seville was my home course the previous two seasons, so I felt like I knew the course well,” said Inaba. “My caddy and I really stuck to our game.
“I planned and worked hard to trust every single swing I took,” she added. “I’m coming off a bit of a slump, so I’m taking a lot of confidence into the next few weeks.”
Despite mixed results this season, Inaba hasn’t allowed her focus or positive attitude to waver.
“I know it’s my job now, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and get down on yourself when things aren’t going well, but everyday it’s getting better,” she said.
“I’m still learning and trying to have as much fun as possible. (My game) is getting there. I feel like I’m close.”
After a strong 2012 season, which included a win at the B.C. Mid Amateur Championship, Inaba made the decision to turn pro last fall.
Making financial ends meet has, at times, been a challenge for Inaba, though a $1,000 payday this week is clearly a nice bonus.
But as a foreign player without a pro athlete visa, she must turn 30 per cent of her winnings over to the U.S. government. This season her official winnings have been$1,733.33 US—minus taxes.
Still, with careful spending habits and help from sponsors back in Kelowna, Inaba is finding ways to get by.
“I’m living on a tight budget, trying to save as much as I can so I can play in as many events as possible,” said Inaba, who gets assistance from local business such as Brandt’s Creek and Kelowna Periodontics. “If you think about it too much you feel the nerves and feel the pressure, so obviously I’m trying to stay as relaxed as I can and go out and play. The sponsors back home have helped me a lot.”
Inaba expects bumps along the road in the early stages of her pro career, but it won’t be due to a lack of commitment or work ethic. Inaba vows to remain focused on chasing her dream of playing pro golf—first on the Symetra Tour, then ultimately on the LPGA Tour—even if the path isn’t always a quick or smooth one.
“I’m a hard worker, I might occasionally take a half day off, but there’s something about knowing that so many other girls are out there grinding it out that keeps you going and motivated,” Inaba said. “I spend a lot of time on the course and in the gym making sure I’m putting what I can into it.
“I love it,” she added. “I like the challenge and I’m working to get better.”
Inaba will enter two more events on the Cactus Tour this month before returning home to Canada where she will play in a CN Tour event May 14 to 16 in Vancouver.
After competing in two other CN Tour events in Ontario and Quebec, Inaba will head to Florida late in the summer for her second try at the LPGA Q-school.