OCALA, Fla. – Na Yeon Choi’s eyes glistened when speaking with reporters after she won the Coates Golf Championship Saturday in a dramatic finish at Golden Ocala.
“I was waiting for a long time for this,” Choi said. “Actually, I thought I was going to cry if I won a tournament, but when I got [a champagne soaking], it felt so good, I tried to hold it in.”
Choi’s eighth LPGA title comes almost two years after her last. She said it’s been a long, difficult two years dealing with expectations from back home in South Korea.
“I’ve had a lot of stress from results,” Choi said. “Even if I finish top 10, or top five, not many say, `You did a good job.’ ... Even if I finish runner-up, [it’s] like, `You’re a loser.’ That kind of hurts me a lot.
“I’m only 27. I don’t think I’m that old. I can still reach my goals.”
Choi won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2012. She rose to No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings that year with pundits predicting she would be South Korea’s next dominant star. Because of her initials (N.Y.), she was nicknamed the Big Apple. With her sweet disposition and devotion to learning English, she was hyped as a player who could thrive in the American market.
After two winless seasons, however, Choi slipped to No. 17 in the world entering this week. She felt as if she were getting beat up for failing to build on her success when she never really slumped. She just wasn’t winning.
“Last year, I missed the cut twice, but that was the most I have missed in, like, the last seven years, and they think I got, like, a slump,” Choi said.
Choi said she quit reading the Internet to avoid stories that might be critical of her.
“I got hurt from reading that stuff,” Choi said. “I actually was thinking of changing my cell phone to 2G so I can’t check my email and any Internet.”
Choi was pleased she could share Saturday’s victory with her mother, Jeong-Me Song, who was at Golden Ocala watching. Choi gave her mother and closest friends quite a show. Four down after Lydia Ko started Saturday’s final round with a pair of birdies, Choi fought back to win. She enjoyed a champagne soaking from her friends on tour on the 18th green after winning.