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[LPGA] Choi Na-yeon Develops as Player on Foreign Soil

Posted June. 04, 2008 03:01,   


Choi Na-yeon’s somewhat creaky appearance tints her with a feeling of weakness. People doubted whether she could adjust to a strange land, but she did.

Choi, 21, debuted on the LPGA Tour this season but is known more for her beauty than her golf ability. Right after the Ginn Tribute Sunday, she and her father drove 700 miles over nine hours to her next tournament. Her voice, however, showed no sign of fatigue.

“I’m carrying with me in my van seven big travel bags,” she said. “I have everything -- rice, Korean side dishes, seasoning, portable pots -- you name it. You’ve got to eat well to perk up stamina. I love meat, especially beef.”

Previously a regular on the waiting list, Choi has made all cuts this season and finished in the top ten in 12 tournaments five times. She has earned 440,000 dollars in prize money, tenth best on the LPGA Tour, making her a prime candidate for top rookie this year.

“All I wanted was just a full seed,” she said. “I am just moving forward. I will not get distracted by greed.”

Choi’s career began to turn around after she got more aggressive. She started building muscle and changing her swing two years ago. Her strategy was to get more aggressive than to be afraid of making mistakes.

Choi tried for more birdies than to take on a prudent approach out of a fear of bogeys. Now, she is leading the LPGA Tour in birdies with 164.

“I can hit for a longer distance,” she said. “Now, my tee shot can fly up to 280 yards. Courses on U.S. clubs are easier despite their long rough areas. They are more spacious and have less out of bounds areas.”

Of course, she has had many problems on foreign soil. She wandered for more than an hour when she could have reached her destination in 20 minutes, and had enormous trouble due to English. She has signed up for English tutoring offered by the LPGA.

After competing in the McDonald’s LPGA Championship tomorrow, Choi will return to Korea for the BC Card Classic, her first visit home after seven months. Her seven straight weeks of play, however, has not daunted her a bit. She seems full of energy with the belief that each championship matters.

“Fans can wait,” she said. “They might want to see the advances I have made. I feel the heat, I’m telling you. I know how to please them, and I will do so. Count on me.”