Grounded Champion

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

October 11 2012, Neal Reid

Choi latest in growing number of Asian-born major winners

She’s young, she’s talented and she’s got a good head on her shoulders.

For those reasons, and many more, it’s hard not to pull for Na Yeon Choi.

The six-time LPGA champion has established herself as one of the world’s best players since joining the Tour in 2008. Choi has amassed nearly $7 million in career earnings while piling up 54 top-10s, and she won her first career major earlier this year at the U.S. Women’s Open.

The well-liked and friendly Korean was the Tour’s top money earner and Vare Trophy winner in 2010 and has climbed to No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. This season, she has six top-10s in 17 events, is third on the money list with $1,209,229 and is amid a streak of 28 consecutive cuts made.

Choi has been extremely pleased with her season and her success thus far on Tour.

“I think I am doing great so far,” she said. “This year is very special to me, because I won a major tournament. I will never forget that feeling.”

Her goals for her career and the rest of 2012 are general in nature.

“My goals are just to play golf and have fun,” Choi said. “After I won the U.S. Open, I sometimes put a lot of pressure on myself, so I want to play golf with fun now and without pressure. But I will play my best every shot on every hole every day.”

Choi doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and that mentality has contributed to her success.

“I don’t have any secrets (to success,” she said. “I just know what I can control and what I can not control. I think that is very important. My job is just going out there and playing golf and doing my best. I always try to think positively.”

Being level-headed has been an asset for Choi, who knows that, even though she’s top five in the world right now, she may not know all she needs to in order to maximize her potential.

“I am very happy and very proud,” Choi said of her ranking. “But I am still young, and I need to learn more about golf. One of my goals is being No. 1, but it is not controllable, so I will just go to the golf course and play with fun and do my best.

“The result doesn’t matter if I do my best. That is more important to me.”

Choi excels at hitting the long clubs well, a feat some pros struggle to master, and she has honed in on the area in which she needs to work the most.

“I feel really comfortable to hit with long clubs,” she said. “I think I need to work very hard on my short game, especially putting. Putting is very important for scoring.

“I haven’t tried to change my swing. My coaches and I just keep checking some basic things, like address, rhythm and tempo.”

That swing has helped Choi make 28 straight cuts, with her last missed cut coming at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open. It is a streak she was unaware of.

“I hadn’t noticed that, but it is very good to hear,” Choi said. “There is no key to playing consistently, but I can say I do not think about scoring during rounds, and that is important. I think many good players do that.”

Choi developed as a pro on the Korean LPGA Tour, where she won tournaments both as a pro and an amateur. That experience helped prepare Choi for the rigors of the LPGA Tour.

“I think I have a lot of experience from the KLPGA that helped me a lot,” she said. “Many good players have practiced together, and we have motivated each other.”

Not willing to embark on a professional career in the United States by doing things half way, Choi hired an English tutor who traveled with her for some time. He now lives with his family in Korea, but Choi has continued to take English classes to master the language.

“Learning a language is very difficult, and I have to practice my golf, too,” Choi said. “Sometimes, I don’t have much time, but I do this for my golf life in the U.S. and all my fans.”

Because of her immense success, Choi has been able to provide for others, family members and strangers alike.

“I bought my house, some cars, and my parents’ house in Korea,” Choi said. “I was so happy when I could buy a house for my mom and dad. And also, I have donated money to charity every year since I turned pro on the KLPGA. I am very happy to help people.”

Spending time in the kitchen whipping up a dish is something Choi enjoys when she’s not whipping up top 10s on the golf course.

“I like to cook, but these days I don’t have much time to cook,” she said. “There are so many tournaments in Asia, which means I barely go home to Orlando. But when I have spare time, I like to cook.”

It’s clear Choi has had the recipe for success.

Topics: Choi, Na Yeon, This week it is all about Me

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