‘Korean Tank’ Choi Kyung-ju (51, SK Telecom) is the symbol of Korean men’s professional golf. This is because he is the first Korean player to advance to the US PGA Tour and win the championship.
Kyung-Ju Choi, who started as a weightlifter and started playing golf when he was in high school, achieved his first win at the Korean Tour Phantom Classic in 1995 at the Korea Professional Golf Association (KPGA). But the walls on the American stage were high. In 2000, the first year of the PGA Tour, he finished 134th in the prize money list and was pushed back to the qualifying school, realizing the difference in skill with American players. Desperate, Kyung-Joo Choi made it to the ‘Top 10’ five times in 2001 and showed his potential, and finally became the first Korean player to top the PGA Tour at the 2002 Compaq Classic. He swept the Players Championship in 2011 with the ‘5th Major’ and achieved eight career victories, holding the record for the most wins among Asian nationals.
Kyung-Joo Choi played a pioneering role in the Korean men’s professional golf once again in the senior tournament where players aged 50 and over participated. In the final 3 round of the PGA Champions Tour Pure Insurance Championship (total prize of $2.2 million) held at Pebble Beach Golf Links (par 72) in Monterey, California, USA on the 27th, Kyung-ju Choi hit a 4-under 68 with five birdies and one bogey. With a final total of 13-under 203, Kyung-ju Choi beat Bernhard Langer and Alex Cheka (Germany) by two strokes to climb to the top, becoming the first Korean player to win the PGA Champions Tour. The prize money for the championship is 330,000 dollars (about 380 million won). With this win, Choi Kyung-joo brushed off the disappointment of being runner-up at Sanford International last week in overtime after a week. It is the first time in 10 years and 4 months since the Players Championship in May 2011 that Kyung-Joo Choi has won the PGA Tour event. He also won the official tournament for the first time in about 9 years since the CJ Invitational on the Korean Tour of Korea Professional Golf (KPGA) in October 2012. The Champions Tour is a tournament for players over the age of 50 to participate in. Born in 1970, Kyung-Joo Choi started participating in senior tournaments last year and is currently participating in regular PGA Tour tournaments. Kyung-Joo Choi stopped the tour for about 8 months in 2018 due to overlapping back pain and surgery to remove a thyroid tumor, but with his indomitable will, he overcame them all and became a hot topic.
Choi Kyung-joo, who took the lead by two strokes in the final round, drove a birdie on four consecutive holes on the 5th to 8th holes on the day, outpacing the pursuers early. The only bogey of the day was on the 14th hole (par 5), but it didn’t affect the championship. After the match, Choi Kyung-joo said, “It took more than 10 years to win again, but it was not easy because there were so many great players competing together.
Kyung-Joo Choi served as vice-president of the International Team of the Presidents Cup in 2015, coach of the national team at the 2016 and 2021 Olympic Games, and was appointed Vice-President of the KPGA in 2020. His second son, Choi Kang-jun (18), also tied for third at the AJGA Choi Kyung-ju Foundation Junior Championship.
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