Runner-up Teen Golfer Steals Spotlight at U.S. Women's Open

Ko Kim, July 19, 2017, 9:33 a.m.


Despite her second-place finish at the U.S. Women's Open on Sunday, amateur teen golfer Choi Hye-jin was all smiles as her stellar performance drew as much attention as winner Park Sung-hyun.

Choi almost became the first amateur golfer to win the open in 50 years, and sports fans certainly took notice. A flock of journalists was waiting for her at Incheon International Airport on her return to Korea on Tuesday.

She even drew the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump, who tweeted, "I am at the @USGA #USWomensOpen. An amateur player is co-leading for the first time in many decades -- very exciting!"

At just 165 cm in height, Choi is not particularly tall but is a powerful golfer who is capable of long shots.

Born in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, she picked up the sport when she was very young. "My older brother had no interest in sports, so my dad took me to the driving range instead," she said.

She has set lofty goals from the start, including being selected for the national team, becoming world No. 1, winning an Olympic gold medal and playing in the U.S. LPGA Tour.

"I want to be a Hall of Famer in the future like Pak Se-ri and Park In-bee," she added.

But for now, Choi is taking a moment to relish her most recent achievement. She humbly brushed off the US$540,000 in prize money for which she is not eligible, instead focusing on the experience itself. She can turn pro after her 18th birthday on Aug. 23.

"I just tried to enjoy the game," she said. "I am an amateur, but so many people cheered for me. It was thrilling to hear them cheer for me."

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