Teen golf phenom eyes top rookie award on home tour

By Yonhap
  • Published : Aug 28, 2017 - 16:41
  • Updated : Aug 28, 2017 - 16:41

South Korean teen golf sensation Choi Hye-jin said Monday she'd like to win the top rookie award on the home tour next year.

Once a hot-shot amateur, Choi turned professional last Thursday, a day after her 18th birthday. On Aug. 20, she won her last event as an amateur, the Bogner MBN Ladies Open on the Korea LPGA Tour. The victory made Choi the first amateur to win twice in one KLPGA season since 1999, and it came about a month after Choi made international headlines by finishing in second place at the US Women's Open, the oldest major championship in women's golf.

Choi signed a two-year endorsement deal with Lotte Group on Monday, worth about 600 million won ($535,800) a year plus some performance-based incentives.

South Korean golfer Choi Hye-jin speaks at a press conference after signing an endorsement deal with Lotte Group in Seoul on Aug. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

She will make her professional debut at this week's KLPGA tournament, the Hanwha Finance Classic, and she was already looking further down the road.

"I'll try to gain as much experience as possible, and will try to play in a lot of tournaments both at home and abroad," Choi said at her signing ceremony with Lotte. "My goal is to win Rookie of the Year and have a memorable season."

Choi added she'd like to be at or near the top in major statistical categories, including money, scoring average and even the Player of the Year points race.

After the KLPGA event this week, Choi will compete at the LPGA Tour's final major of the year, the Evian Championship, in France starting Sept. 14.

If she wins the tournament, Choi will earn an exemption for the LPGA Tour next season. The youngster said, though, she'll have to think long and hard even if such an opportunity comes along.

"I guess I could think about (moving to the US tour immediately), but I need to gain more playing experience," Choi said.

Now that she's a pro, Choi said she feels a little nervous going into this week's tournament.

"I'll try to have fun and have the same mindset as when I was an amateur," she said. "I won't get caught up in the results. I'll just stick to my own game plan." (Yonhap)