Updated: Jan, 2014

NA YEON CHOI

The Facts

Birthday: October 28, 1987
Rookie Year on KLPGA: Turned pro in late 2004
Rookie Year on the LPGA: 2008
Birthplace: South Korea
LPGA Wins: 7
LPGA Majors: 1 (
2012 US Women's Open)
Best Score: 62 (2013 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic)
Best Scoring Average for a year: 69.87 (2010)
Best Season Money Total: $1,981,834 (2012)
Best Season Money Position: 1st (2010)
Most Top Tens/Season: 15 (2010)

Post-season awards: 2010 Vare Trophy
Height:
5' 5"
2014 LPGA Status: Category 1
Nicknames: NYC
Sponsors: SK Telecom, Titleist, Hazzy
How's her English?: Good
Hobbies: Shooting pool, watching volleyball
Road to the LPGA: T-20th at 2007 Q-School to gain conditional status

Career Highlights

Na Yeon Choi started playing golf at age ten, inspired in part by the success of golf legend Se Ri Pak. She became a top amateur star, eventually winning a KLPGA event (and beating Pak!) while still in high school.

Choi turned pro and joined the KLPGA, where she was a top player for several years. In 2007, she attended LPGA Q-School, where she just missed a full tour card. Nonetheless, she joined the tour full time in 2008.

Choi had success on the big tour right out of the gate. Although she did not win in 2008, she pushed eventual Rookie of the Year Ya Ni Tseng all year; Tseng did not put away the top rookie prize until the year's final event, despite winning a Major.

Choi won her first LPGA event in 2009, and would go on to collect 7 wins through the end of 2013. Her biggest victory came at the 2012 US Women's Open, where she dominated, winning on the same course as Pak had won on in 1998. Choi led the tour money list in 2010 and was third in 2011 and second in 2012. Her world ranking climbed as high as 2nd, although it fell back to 7th during a winless 2013 campaign.

Links
Video: Na Yeon Choi in 2011
Video: Choi & Song Hee Kim at Sea World

Galleries

2007 Photos
2006 Photos
Images
Seoul Sisters Pix
Full Bio

Na Yeon Choi started playing golf at the age of ten. Within less than a year, she was already winning tournaments. She quickly became one of the top amateurs in Korea.

Choi made her biggest splash as an amateur when, at age 17, she won the ADT-CAPS Invitational on the KLPGA tour. She beat Se Ri Pak, who finished second, by four shots. This turned her into an instant celebrity in Korea. She turned pro shortly thereafter, and quickly landed several lucrative sponsorships.

In 2005, Choi joined the KLPGA tour, where she did quite well. Although she lost the Rookie of the Year award to Hee Young Park, she was second in that race, and finished top ten on the money list. She had another strong season in 2006, highlighted by a win at the third KB Star Tour event. She wound up finishing third on the money list, and was thus picked to play for the Korean team at the Kyoraku Cup.

Na Yeon played some LPGA events in 2007, but didn't do too well at them. She made a bigger splash on the KLPGA. During the first part of the season, she was shut out of the winner's circle, but she eventually had several big finishes, including a win at the Shinsegae Cup KLPGA Championship in September. She wound up finishing 4th on the year end money list.

Meanwhile, she was already thinking about her next career step. She won the second LPGA Qualifying School sectional in 2007. She thus came into Q-School looking for an exempt card, but she just missed one, finishing two shots out of the money. Nonetheless, she did grab a high conditional status for 2008.

Choi didn't take long to establish herself in her rookie season on the LPGA. In just her third event in Mexico, she nabbed a tie for 5th, and followed that with a tie for 6th a few weeks later at the Kraft Nabisco, the year's first Major. This gave her the early lead in the Rookie of the Year race, and she continued to cling onto that until June. At that point, Taiwanese star Yani Tseng became one of the youngest woman to ever win a Major when she snagged the LPGA Championship. Tseng took over the lead in the ROY race, but Choi would seize it back again several more times.

Choi did this through astonishing consistency. Week after week, she put up good finishes, not finishing outside the top 40 at an event until October, and making every cut. She had top 20s in all four Majors as well.

She also put herself into contention to win. She finished tied for 2nd at the Sybase Classic, and had a chance to win the Ginn Tribute and the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship as well. Finally, at the Evian Masters in July, everything seemed to come into focus. With a few holes to go, she had a four shot lead and seemed certain to collect her first win. But she stumbled, wound up in a playoff, and eventually lost to Swedish veteran Helen Alfredsson.

The next week, Tseng finished second at the British Open, and soon after that regained the Rookie of the Year lead. Tseng would finally win that title at the last event of the year, but Choi made over a million dollars in 2008, and finished eleventh on the money list. That's a fantastic debut season by any measure!

Choi had much the same kind of season in 2009, with multiple top tens and twenties and no missed cuts. She finally broke through late in the year at the Samsung World Championship. She had a seven shot lead at one point on the final day, but with one hole to go found herself tied with Ai Miyazato. Fortunately she made birdie on that hole to claim her first LPGA win at last. Just a few weeks later, she grabbed her second win at the Hana Bank Kolon Championship in Korea. With those successes, Choi had firmly established herself as one of the very best Korean golfers in the world.

In 2010, Choi took a huge step forward in her career, with easily her best season yet as a pro. The year started much as her previous years had, with a lot of consistency and a few great finishes. Then she missed her first ever LPGA cut at the LPGA Championship. This seemed to spur her on, for from that point on until the end of the year, she was one of the very best golfers in the world. In fact, her next five finishes were top threes, including a win at the Jamie Farr, a second at the US Women's Open, and a third at the British Women's Open. She also finished third at the KLPGA Championship when she briefly played back in Korea in the Fall.

Her world ranking improved by leaps and bounds as she continued with her awesome consistency. In October she won her 4th career title at the Hana Bank, successfully defending her crown. She had a chance, coming into the year's final event, to win all the major post-season awards, but wound up with two: the top of the money list (her $1.8 million total was a new all time record for any Korean golfer), and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average (she is one of only three Koreans to finish the year with a sub-70 average). Her Rolex ranking rose to 4th, her highest ever. She is fast catching up with Jiyai Shin (who was #1 at the end of the year) as the most accomplished Korean of her generation.

Choi had another superb season in 2011. Though her stats were not quite as impressive as in 2010, Shin had a fairly weak year, and so Choi assumed the title of highest ranked Korean in the world by the end of the year. In all, she notched 12 top tens (including a tie for 7th at the British Women's Open), had the second best scoring average in the league, and made over $1.3 million in 2011.

After missing only her second career cut at the US Women's Open, she had a particularly strong second half of the season. She had a great chance to win the Safeway Classic in August, but struggled down the stretch, falling into a playoff with Suzann Pettersen. Choi lost the playoff when she hit her approach shot on the playoff hole into the water. After 2 more top tens, she had another good chance to win at the Korean LPGA event, the Hana Bank. But she couldn't shake world #1 Ya Ni Tseng, who beat her by a shot. The next week, however, Choi got revenge by beating Tseng by a shot in Malaysia for her 5th career win. It was also the 100th win on the LPGA tour by a player of Korean ethnicity, an achievement that got a lot of publicity back in her homeland.

In addition to her LPGA heroics, Choi also won once on the KLPGA tour in 2011. She captured the Hanwha Classic in September, beating, among others, US Women's Open winner So Yeon Ryu down the stretch. By the end of the year, Choi was ranked #3 in the world, her highest ranking ever, and the highest ranking at the time for any Korean (next was Sun Ju Ahn at #6; Jiyai Shin had fallen from #1 all the way to #7). Choi ended the year at the Swinging Skirts Invitational in Taiwan, where she finished fourth behind Taiwanese superstar Tseng, disappointing a surprisingly big group of Taiwanese Na Yeon fans who followed her all week hoping to witness a win by their idol.

Na Yeon had a great season in 2012, highlighted by her first ever Major win. She climbed back to second in the world rankings, closer to Yani Tseng's #1 spot than she had been before. The year started well, with a playoff loss at just her second event, the HSBC Masters. She followed that with a second runner-up finish at the RR Donnelly and a top ten at the Nabisco. The worst part of her season came at the second Major of the year, when she failed to sign her scorecard and was disqualified.

But Choi bounced back from that disappointment in a big way at the next Major, the US Women's Open, which was held at Blackwolf Run, the place where Se Ri Pak, in 1998, won the Open and started the Korean golf explosion. There was nothing that Choi wanted more than to win at that site, and that's exactly what happened. She shot a majestic third round 65 that ranks among the greatest rounds of golf a Korean has ever produced. It was an unbelievable *12* shots better than the average that day. On the final day, an unexpected triple bogey on the 10th hole momentarily put her win in doubt. She followed that with a birdie and an amazing, gutsy up and down from tall weeds on the 12th hole. Once her wayward tee shot on the 13th bounced off the rocks and avoided the water, Choi was set on the course that gave her the trophy. Se Ri herself was there to douse Choi in water on the final green.

Choi played well much of the rest of the year, with a third in Canada, a near miss loss to Inbee Park in Malaysia, and a fifth at the Mizuno in Japan. Finally, at the year's last event, the CME Group Titleholders, she waged a mano-a-mano battle with Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu, coming out on top thanks to a superlative approach on the 16th hole to set up the winning birdie. Choi's final money list total of nearly $2 million was the second most money ever earned by a Korean in a single season, and left her second on the tour money list behind fellow Korean Inbee Park.

Choi finished her year by winning both her matches at the Korea-Japan Team Championship and claiming the trophy at the Swinging Skirts, a non-tour event in Taiwan. Bolstered by the huge galleries cheering her on, Choi at last treated her Taiwanese fans to a victory in their homeland. Alas, it came in a playoff against a Taiwanese player, so there were some mixed emotions. But for the Choi faithful, it was an unforgettable moment.

Choi came into the 2013 season as the second ranked player in the world. With #1 Ya Ni Tseng's game in a freefall, there had never been a better opportunity for Choi to grab the #1 spot she had so long sought. But as it turned out, 2013 was one of Choi's weaker seasons, and instead of moving up the rankings, she fell all the way down to #7 by year's end.

She did not manage to win in 2013, her first winless season on the LPGA since she broke through in 2009. In fact, most years since then she had won at least twice. Choi did have two good chances to get wins, but fell short to Stacy Lewis both times. At the HSBC Champions, she was in contention much of Sunday but couldn't seem to buy a putt when she needed one.

At the Ricoh British Women's Open, however, it seemed like everything was going her way. Inbee Park, the winner of the year's first three Majors, was struggling against the pressure to win her fourth. Choi shot a magnificent second round 67 that was almost as amazing as the third round 65 she had produced at the US Women's Open when she won. During the 36 hole final day, she climbed into the lead, and with six holes to play, she was three shots ahead of anyone else. But at that point she started to struggle, and when Stacy Lewis made two unlikely birdies to end her round, she actually surged into the lead. Choi wound up tied for second with Hee Young Park; her second best Major finish, but not the win she was seeking.

In all, Choi finished with less than $1 million in earnings for the season, 9th on the money list. She was 5th in scoring average at 70.69, and had 8 top tens during the year.

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