On Wednesday morning in her home country of South Korea, Na Yeon Choi announced her officially retirement from competition effective after the LPGA Tour’s Korean event, the BMW Ladies Championship, October 20 – 23. The 34-year-old has 9 LPGA Tour titles to her credit, including the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.
She made the announcement through a statement that read:
Hello, Na Yeon Choi here.
I want to share with you my big decision that I recently made after a lot of consideration.
It's been 18 years since I became a professional golfer at the age of 16. I played on the KLPGA tour for 3 years and then advanced to my dream of playing on the LPGA Tour.
Since I came to the United States as a 19-year-old rookie, I’ve spent my 20s playing golf on the LPGA tour, and now I am turning 35.
There have been good times and happy moments enjoying victories, but sometimes I’ve felt lonely and challenged, which are the feelings that all players live with, not only myself. Nevertheless, I’ve always set goals and worked hard to fulfill my dreams. Now there are two roads in front of me and I have to choose which road to take.
All athletes encounter the moment when they decide to retire. I think this is the right moment for me to make this big decision because I know that I will be leaving with no regrets in my career, which has been filled with my sweat and blood. It is not an easy decision to make but I am going to make the choice with no regrets for myself and my future.
I'm going to stop playing golf, which was my whole life and at the same time a sport I both loved and hated. I’ve experienced many challenges but I will miss those moments a lot.
I'm going to start a new chapter of my life now. Along with my family and friends, I’d like to pursue my happiness and experience many new things. Please cheer for me! I want to share my experiences and knowledge to return the love and support that I’ve been thankfully given.
I’d like to say thank you to all the people on the LPGA tour and the USGA, also KLPGA and KGA who always provide good opportunities to many players including me and support us to pursue our dreams.
And I am thankful to all the sponsors and fans who always provided support and encouragement throughout my whole career. Thanks to their cheering, I was able to be confident and do my best anywhere I played. I’m also very grateful to my supporters I met in the many countries around the world that I visited for tournaments.
Looking back on my 18 years, I wish I could have made more friends as I had wanted to. I was busy heading forward without looking around, making the excuse of my not-so-perfect English and being coy.
Now I'll cheer for all players from afar. I know that they have to go through lonely battles with themselves. Instead of just saying cheer up, I want to tell them, “Try to be relaxed and thankful. Be more focused on yourself and cherish and love yourself. You are always great players.”
I want to say thank you to my friends who always listened to me and supported me whenever I was exhausted, and also to my fellow players, who are still playing or who are retired. We shared advice and supported each other while competing in tournaments.
Additionally, I really appreciate my team members who have been with me inside and outside the ropes. Without you guys, I could never have achieved anything.
Last but not least, I am very thankful to my family who have always encouraged me and been willing to sacrifice their own lives for me. I love you.
Thank you again everyone.
Choi won her first professional event as a 17-year-old, the ADT CAPS Invitational on the KLPGA. That week, she beat the grand dame of Korean women’s golf, LPGA Hall of Fame member Si Ri Pak. Buoyed by that event, Choi won at least once a year on the KPGA from 2004 through 2007.
In 2008, she finished 11th on the LPGA Tour money list and was second in the Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year race to Yani Tseng. A year later, Choi won twice on the LPGA Tour. She won twice again 2010, followed by a one-win season in 2011, and twice again in 2012, including her lone major.
Then, after a two-year absence from the winner’s circle, where she was open about the pressures to perform at the highest level, she won twice again in 2015.
Choi has become one of the most popular stars in Korea with her own YouTube channel and a wealth of social media followers.
She will play as a sponsor’s invitee in the BMW where she will answer questions and bid a fond farewell to her many fans.