PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Albin Choi’s part-time caddie gig turned into a full-time thrill Sunday at the Honda Classic.
Choi, a five-year Korn Ferry Tour veteran, was spending the winter caddying at Old Palm Golf Club, just down the road from PGA National, home to the week’s PGA Tour event, when he got a call from Sungjae Im, asking if he would like to carry his bag.
“I accepted, and I’m glad I did,” Choi said.
It was a winning proposition.
Im won his first PGA Tour title Sunday with Choi caddying for the first time in a PGA Tour event.
“We've known each other for, I'd say, the past 2 ½ to 3 years now, from playing on the Korn Ferry Tour together,” Choi said. “I met Sungjae at the final stage in Arizona and kind of exchanged a few words there, but as the year progressed we became closer and closer.”
Choi, 27, took the caddie job at Old Palm to help fill time while he mends from a wrist injury. He’s intent on resuming his playing career when he’s fully healed.
Im and Choi made a strong team.
“He was looking for a guy this week, and I know he's had some language barriers with other caddies in the past,” Choi said. “I just felt like we communicate better, and being a player myself, and having played this golf course a lot of times, he wanted somebody on the bag with a little bit of experience.”
Choi was born and raised in Canada, the son of Korean immigrants. He’s fluent in the Korean language. He was also familiar with PGA National’s Champion Course. He first earned his Korn Ferry Tour card at the final stage of qualifying school there.
“I know how hard it is to navigate your way through this golf course,” Choi said. “From a player standpoint, I kind of knew what he was feeling at certain times, and I felt like I could kind of draw upon my experiences to help him out today and to keep his head in the right place.”
Choi said he relished the experience.
“Just learning, seeing what it takes to win a PGA Tour event, being inside the ropes,” Choi said.
Sunday came with another bonus for Choi.
Mackenzie Hughes was paired with Im. Choi knew Hughes from their playing days together in Canada. In fact, they became so close, Choi served as a groomsman in Hughes’ wedding.