Na Yeon Choi of South Korea has worked hard on her golf game and on learning English.
Na Yeon Choi won her first major championship at the U.S. Women’s Open, and she closed the season by winning the LPGA Titleholders.
But perhaps the South Korean’s most remarkable performance came when the season was over.
Players for whom English is their second (or third) language can get by in interviews with print media. They tend be more uncomfortable when cameras are involved. Choi showed how much progress she has made the day after winning the Titleholders. She went into the studio for a live segment on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive.”
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The LPGA staff helped her prepare for questions that might be asked and when things didn’t go according to script, the 25-year-old Choi still handled the situation beautifully.
That wasn’t an accident.
As hard as Choi has worked on her game, she might have worked harder on her English.
Last year, she hired a personal tutor — Greg Morrison, a Canadian based in South Korea — and brought him with her on the road. She had a one-hour lesson every day, and practiced her English with him in casual conversation.
Se Ri Pak would have been proud. The pioneer for South Koreans on the LPGA Tour, Pak preached years ago about the importance of learning English.
Along with fitting in, Pak said it would make players feel more comfortable in public and ultimately improve their golf.
“First year when I was here, I couldn’t speak English well and then very hard to tell my feelings to people, even media or fans or even swing coach,” Choi said. “When I learned English and when I tell my feelings to people, I feel way more comfortable than before. I think that made it good golfer, too. And on the golf course, I can relax and I can talk with the other players.”
Morrison couldn’t travel with Choi this year, though they still practiced through Skype. She had another one-hour lesson during the Titleholders and plans to meet with him during the offseason.
“We talk about not only golf, we talk about anything,” Choi said. “Like, I said I’m going to look for a new house and he tried to help me with which house is better for me. He’s more like, not just English tutor, he’s more like manager or assistant to me.”
PGA Tour ranks high
Most of the world’s best players are going to the Middle East in the winter and the Far East in the fall, both part of the European Tour.
But over the course of the year, the PGA Tour is where biggest offering of world-ranking points can be found.
Toss the four major tournaments and the four World Golf Championships events, and the PGA Tour averaged 46.7 points for the winner of its tournaments, compared with 34.9 points for the winner of regular European Tour events.
Add the majors and the WGCs, and the winner received an average of 54.3 points on the PGA Tour and 44.6 points on the European Tour.
The Players Championship gets 80 points as the PGA Tour’s flagship event.