Chella Choi, poised for a breakthrough
South Korea’s Chella Choi is searching for her breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour.
In 103 starts since joining the Tour in 2009, Choi has touched the top of the leaderboard on numerous occasions.
She captured her career-best finish in 2012 at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic when she was the last to fall to American Brittany Lang in a four-way playoff that included Inbee Park and Hee Kyung Seo. While her first win didn’t come there, she went on to finish in the top-10 seven more times that season.
This season, Choi made headlines when she led the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic after the third round, but a final-round, 2-under 70 wasn’t enough to maintain her lead and she ultimately fell to finish in a tie for fourth with Jennifer Johnson taking the win.
Four weeks later, Choi found herself in the same position as she led a major championship for the first time in her career at the Wegmans LPGA Championship after the first round. While she remained nearthe top of the leaderboard for most of the event, she finished in a tie for fifth with fellow Korean Inbee Park sealing the win.
Choi has since claimed three more top-10 finishes – a tie for sixth at the Evian Championship and at last week’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia along with a tie for tenth finish in China.
While she’s enjoyed the steady progression as an LPGA Tour pro, the 23-year-old is growing impatient for her breakthrough win.
“I just enjoy my Tour life,” said Choi. “I've been playing here in LPGA already five years so I feel like comfortable. I just cannot be satisfied without victory.”
And her father, who has also played the role of her caddy for the past five years, is growing even wearier.
“My father always say before tournament, every time before tournament, ‘I don't want to caddy for you; I want to retire,’” said Choi. “But I say ‘No, you just caddy for one more tournament.’ I want my first win to be with my father.”
While Choi may have flown under the radar for most of her career, the South Korean says her steady ascension on the LPGA Tour has helped shape her attitude and evolve her game.
“I gained more confidence every year,” said Choi. “I didn't change or try to do something different than first two years. I think I just needed time for experience and then playing has been better and better. So I will try to do as I did.”
This week, the LPGA Tour is in Korea for the 12th staging of the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship, a tournament she has loved since she was a junior golfer. It seems fitting that Choi’s game has come together just weeks before she performs in front of a hometown crowd.
“I’m absolutely so excited in that tournament,” said Choi. “When I couldn't play the Asia swing on my Rookie year and second year, I was really disappointed. When I was young, when I as a junior golfer, I went to there as spectator for watching their play and I was really touched. It was my dream. So, every year I’m excited to play there and want to get a good position. And I can expect to big crowd not only me also for all LPGA girls in Korea. I’m just really thankful to their passion to us.”
Choi is one of 41 “Seoul Sisters” on the LPGA Tour and is one of 14 South Korean ranked in the top-35 of the Rolex Rankings. To see her compatriots excel on golf’s global tour is something she takes the most pride in.
“I am proud of it,” said Choi of being one of the top-ranked players who hail from South Korea. “We all grew up together from as junior golfers so it is too fun to be writing the history together.”