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Choi's independence key to career

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KOHLER, Wis. – You never know how lessons that seem to have nothing to do with golf can shape a champion’s makeup.

You never know what decisions outside the ropes lead to memorable victories.

When Na Yeon Choi was a child, she loved pro wrestling. She used to wrestle her brother and his friends in the neighborhood. “The first one to cry lost,” she once said. She would go on to become so proficient in the martial arts, her teacher wanted her to become a Tae Kwon Do fighter.

The toughness and fight in the soft-spoken and mild-mannered Choi came through on the back nine Sunday of her U.S. Women’s Open victory. She wasn’t about to be the first one to cry with the U.S. Women’s Open tightening up and her game appearing to unravel.

Also, a few years ago, Choi, 24, made a tough decision. She declared her independence from her parents. That’s really a delicate deal in the South Korean culture. Back in 2009, while playing the LPGA, Choi told her parents she wanted them to go back to South Korea and allow her to carve out her own path and identity.

“I think, maybe, it was in June [of ’09], I told my parents I want to be more independent,” Choi said. “I want you guys to go back to Korea and go there and relax and support me from there.  And then, at that moment, actually, they were mad. My mom was crying, because they did very hard work for me. But I said I think I need to be more independent. I can learn something from independence.

“And then they left, and I was traveling by myself. Four weeks later, I won the Samsung tournament, and my mom and dad called me [and said] `I knew you could do it.’ 

Choi told her parents: “Look, mom and dad, I really learned a lot of things from independence. I know what I have to do. I still practice hard and work hard.  So, like, please trust me, and when you are in Korea, support me. That really helped my emotion.”