Planet Golf — 07 July 2012 by GW staff and news services
Choi joins idol Pak as U.S. Open champ

History basically repeated itself in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.

Na Yeon Choi was just nine-years-old when she watched Se Ri Pak make U.S. Women’s Open history at Blackwolf Run in 1998. It was a win that caused a surge of inspiration in young women in South Korean to pursue a career in professional golf.

Choi’s victory on Sunday in Kohler, Wisc., solidifies that. She stood on the 18th green hoisting the same trophy as her role model lifted just 14 years ago.

Pak was among a group of friends who met Choi after she putted out on the 18th green, showering her with hugs — and victory champagne.

“She said, hey, Na Yeon, I’m really proud of you.  You did a really good job, and you was really calm out there.  She talked to me a lot.  And she was hugging me,” Choi said. “ That was ‑‑ like 14 years ago I was only [10] years old, and like when I was watching TV, my goal was like ‑‑ my dream was like I just want to be there.  And 14 years later I’m here right now, and I made it.  My dreams come true.  It’s an amazing day today, and like I really appreciate what Se Ri did and all the Korean players, they did.  It’s really no way I can be here without them.”

Blackwolf Run did not play easy for the LPGA Tour this week, but Choi managed to adapt to the challenges of the 6,984 yard course. Choi made her move on day-three of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, jumping from four strokes behind the leader following the second round, to leading the field by six strokes heading into the final round. Choi weaved her way around several obstacles on Sunday, but managed to save herself with several impressive putts. Even with a triple-bogey on the 10th hole, Choi managed to keep her lead to finish 8-under and 5-strokes ahead of fellow South Korean, Amy Yang.

Choi joins a league of nine South Koreans who have won a women’s major championship on the LPGA Tour.

It was her first career major championship win, the previous best finish was tied for second at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont C.C.

While her parents played a huge part in helping her to make it on the LPGA Tour, Choi made a decision toward the middle of 2009 to ask her parents to go back to Korea so that she could become what she called an “adult” and pursue her golfing career independently. It wasn’t an easy decision, considering that she would then have to do everything on her own and do it without the two people who she loves very dearly.

With her parents still in Korea, Choi was by herself for this important victory and she choked up during the trophy presentation when she started speaking about her family. Choi is flying back to Korea on Monday to see her parents and celebrate this special win with the two people who did so much to get her to this point in her career.

“I haven’t talked with my parents yet, but I don’t know, maybe my mom was crying or my dad was crying.  I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure they really happy right now,” Choi said. “ And I’m going to Korea tomorrow, and I love to see my parents in the airport, and I really miss ‑‑ actually, I feel really sorry for them, because they are not here right now.  But I’m pretty sure they were watching on TV and they couldn’t sleep last night, and they supported me a lot.  I really appreciate what they did.”

With the $585,000 first-place check, she increased career earnings to $6,660,293 and bumped her season earnings to $994,908. She’s now fourth on the 2012 LPGA Tour Official Money List

Choi and Yang were the only players to finish the tournament under par.

Sandra Gal of Germany shot a 74 and finished 1 over for the tournament. Il Hee Lee of South Korea, Shanshan Feng of China and Italian Giulia Sergas ended up 2 over. Michelle Wie finished the tournament 10 over. After shooting a 66 on Friday to close with a stroke of the lead, she had weekend rounds of 78 and 80.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng finished 14 over, and still needs a U.S. Open victory to complete a career Grand Slam.

For nine holes on Sunday, it looked like Tseng had gotten her game back on track. But then she made the turn and the wheels fell off. After shooting 33 on the front nine of her final round, Tseng posted a 45 on the back to shoot her second straight round of 78.

“It was like some amateur was playing on the Back 9,” Tseng said. “But I mean these four days I played nine holes good every day.  It was like switch on and off.  It was like perfect front 9 and back 9 was just way off.  It was like a totally different person playing golf.”

 

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