Na Yeon Choi really likes Toledo, Ohio. That may surprise some, but the South Korean star has had great success in this Northwest Ohio city.
Choi won the most recent Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Presented by Kroger, Owens-Corning and O-I in 2010. She returned to Toledo this July, nearly two years later, as the defending champion to participate in the tournament's Media Day, then won the U.S. Women's Open the following week in Wisconsin. One month later she is back at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania to defend her title. She is currently the world's third-ranked player and ranks in the LPGA's top five in four statistical categories (fifth in Putts per Green in Regulation, fourth in Scoring at 70.61, fifth in Birdies with 182 and third in Eagles with five).
Choi's change over the last couple years has been notable. In 2009, her parents returned to South Korea, allowing Choi to become more independent in her travels. Last year, Choi hired an English tutor who traveled with her throughout the year as they conversed in English at meals to improve her confidence. She now conducts interviews in English. She has also developed a routine for focusing during her golf rounds.
"Yes, I have a mental coach," Choi said. "And they always say golf is five or six hours of sport. But I have to do only 10 minutes' focus on the game. The shot – when I hit the shot, it only takes like five seconds or seven seconds. And after the shot, during the walk to the next shot, I have to switch off for my mental. So I just tried talking about some fun thing or not golf or like some food, anything. I can talk with my caddie (Shane Joel). And then when I go to the second shot area, I just turn on the switch and maybe focus 100 percent."
Choi has had a busy schedule since winning the Women's Open. She went home to South Korea, played tournaments in Japan and France, visited the Summer Olympic Games in London and then went back to her American base in Orlando for a quick lesson with her coach before traveling to Ohio. Her good play evidently rubbed off on the South Koreans as she watched the women's volleyball team earn two wins, the women's team handball gain a last-second tie and swimmer Tae Hwon Park win a silver medal in the men's 200-meter freestyle.
The Olympic experience revealed her ultimate goal.
"My final goal is I want to play in the Olympics 2016 and get some medal under the Korean flag," Choi said after winning the Women's Open. "That is my biggest goal right now. I can to No. 1 in the world or Player of the Year, but my biggest dream is playing Olympics 2016 and I want to get some medal from there. That's why I want to go to the Olympics this year and see what's the feeling in there. "