Kelowna's Kyla Inaba has turned pro and will play this winter on the Cactus Tour in Arizona.

Kelowna's Kyla Inaba has turned pro and will play this winter on the Cactus Tour in Arizona.

Inaba tees up for first pro season

Kelowna golfer to open the year on Arizona's Cactus Tour, hopes for LPGA breakthrough

In her first full season as a professional, Kyla Inaba is being realistic about her expectations.

Then again, the 26-year-old golfer from Kelowna isn’t about set the bar too low, either.

“For me, it’s my first season as a professional, so I just want to play in as many events as  I can,” said Inaba, a former captain of the UBC Thunderbirds women’s golf team. “We’ll see how things go financially and I’ll just take it from there. I’d love to play in 20-plus events, have some success and give it a real good kick at the can my first time around.”

As she did last year, Inaba will spend much of the winter in the Phoenix area where she’ll play on the Cactus Tour, a developmental circuit featuring about a dozen events in Arizona between January and May.

Inaba also hopes to play in some tournaments on the Symetra Tour—the top developmental circuit for the LPGA Tour—where she has partial playing status.

After turning pro last September, Inaba played in the LPGA’s qualifying school event in Daytona Beach, Fla., but didn’t make it past the first stage.

However, after a disappointing opening round of 80, Inaba knocked off a one-under par 71 in the second round to miss the cut by just three strokes.

With only 15 players in the field carding a better score that day, it was an encouraging sign  for Inaba.

“It showed that somehow I had it in me to compete and shoot a low score in a tough competition like that,” said Inaba. “It helps at this level to know you can compete and gives you the confidence you need.”

Prior to turning pro, Inaba enjoyed a solid 2012 campaign, winning the Okanagan zone women’s championship, followed by a victory at the B.C. Mid-Amateur Championship at Christina Lake.

Between her success on the course and the accumulation of big-tournament experience over the years, Inaba felt the time was right to make the move to the professional ranks.

“Everyone asked me why I stayed amateur for three years after school and really I just knew I wasn’t ready to turn pro,” she said. “Every year I’ve seen a progression in my game, I’ve seen the results, and I feel turning professional now is realistic. It’s time to give it a go.”

Like any female golfer who turns professional, Inaba would love to make a living playing the game by ultimately having success on the LPGA Tour. Regardless of what awaits in her golfing future, playing pro is an opportunity Inaba simply couldn’t pass up.

“At this stage, a lot of women my age are settling down, getting married and having kids, so I thought why not take this while I have the chance,” said Inaba, who is looking for sponsors to help her through her first season. “I have the time to put in the hard work and grind away and see what comes of it. It’s better now than never to give it a shot, and if I didn’t give it a whirl I’d regret it. I still love the game, so why not ?”

Inaba will play in her first Cactus Tour event at the end of January at Club West Golf Club in Phoenix.

In May, she’ll return to Canada with the plan of playing in a number of events on the Canadian Tour.

Then in September 2013, Inaba will head back to Q-school in Florida with hopes of securing a spot on the LPGA Tour.



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