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Choi win means retirement for father

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Chella Choi is trying to set her ailing father free.

With a 3-under-par 69 Friday in the first round of the Mizuno Classic in Japan, Choi took a step she’s hoping will end joyously with her first LPGA victory and her father finally being able to retire as her caddie. She is one shot off the lead with her father caddieing through sickness.

Choi’s father, Ji Yeon Choi, is a 54-year-old retired South Korean policeman. He also is eager to retire his caddie duties, but his daughter insists he continue. She has a dream, and the dream is that her father will be there by her side, toting her bag, when she wins her first LPGA title.

Even though Ji Yeon was so overcome with stomach pains that he was transported by ambulance to a hospital for treatment before a pro-am earlier this week, he was still on Chella’s bag when play began Friday.

“Doctor say he’s OK, just be careful,” Choi said in her post-round meeting Friday with reporters. “We will work together this week, and next week [at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational] and at CME. This week if I won, he retires, done.”

Choi played the pro-am with an alternate caddie, and she was going to withdraw before the tournament began so he could rest and recuperate, but she said he insisted that they play.

“Before every tournament, he say, `OK, just this tournament. I retire after this tournament,’” Chella said. “So, I say, `OK, I try [to win] this week.”