The first South Korean golfer in PGA, Kyung Ju Choi (K.J. Choi), has participated in the Deutsche Bank Championship, part of the PGA FedEx Cup playoffs, which was held at the Norton Country Club on the 1st day of September.
Although Choi unfortunately was cut off afterthe second round, he was never agitatedduring the tournament and his gentleness showed when he encouraged other opponents at the end.
Eun-han Kim, a columnist of Boston Korea, had an interview with K.J. Choi, a gentleman of Korean golf and the first Korean golfer in the PGA.
Most Korean immigrants experience hardship after they arrive in the United States. Did you also have any hardship?
I was struggling when I first arrived since the language and culture are very different. The most unbearable situation was when people asked me who I am. They wondered if I am Chinese or Japanese. Whenever I heard those types of questions, I thought I have to be really good at golf. People could not distinguish my ethnicity because there was not any Korean advanced to PGA at that time. Thus, I tried harder and harder.
Is there any special reason to become a worldwide professional golfer who is from a small island in South Korea, Wando?
When I used to live on Wando Island, I had to drive for 3 hours to get to the golf club. It was not really easy to go there often so I practiced more than enough each time I visited. I think it was possible for me to work hard because I had passion. Since I started golf later than other professional golfers, I extended my practice hours and slept less. I believe that because I had great passion and I felt a sense of accomplishment after winning over the Korean professional golfers who had better records, I could succeed to be in the position I’m in today.
What is your motto for life?
It is that I never regret and give up what I want to do, and do the best for the rest of my life.
You don’t seem to be agitated during the games. Do you have your own special creed in your life?
When I first began golf in Korea, people had called me ‘a country boy from Wando’. I was very upset, but if I really threw my golf club at them, they would have said, “Wando boys are all like him.”
Thus, what I thought when I first arrived in the U.S. was, I should never act carelessly even if my golf life does not go well. Then, people could think ‘All Koreans are like that’, when they actually do not know much about Korea.
Also, when I grew up in Wando, elders always used to teach me about ‘modesty’ and ‘enthusiasm’ and I learned how to behave well from those people. I also disliked players who offend their opponents. I can now hear somegood comments based on these learning and thoughts.
The players known for their bad manners are quite friendly to you. Why do you think so?
I think it’s because I never express my feelings, but concentrate on golf. I also encourage opponents and perhaps this is why they are kind to me as well.
I have heard that you are close to Tiger Woods. How is he?
Whenever I accompany Tiger Woods, I cheer him more with my heart than with words. He is getting better overall after the incident,and he has been practicing golf hard. His fans love him a lot.
What are the most memorable victories of your games?
The most memorable ones are the first PGA victory of my life and the victory of the Players Championship. For the tournament that I won, I was not sure if I could succeed, but I won the championship during the PGA course. For the Players Championship, I am glad to win more than ever because there have not been any Korean winners for last 10 years. I believe that God gave me an opportunity to step ahead to the major field that I have always desired. I slowed down a little bit this year, but I am still aiming for the goal.
You seem like a Christian
My wife recommended me to attend church before we were married. As I attended church, I felt the grace of God and I began to change. I wish teenagers would not go astray and have the wish to be under God.
What kind of organization is K.J. Choi Foundation (http://www. kjchoifoundation.org) ?
To me, sharing and helping out others are the energy of my life. Let’s say I am a battery and the foundation is a charger. I charge my energy from my foundation.
The K.J. Choi Foundation was established out of concern for the future of children and community. I want to provide support to children who have hopes and dreams. Also, I hope they will help others by looking back to the foundation where they received help, after they graduate college, complete military service and go out in the society.
Moreover, the foundation leads teenagers to take the right track through sports. The society in the future will be bright if teenagers these days are well cared for. I wish to help youths who have talent but cannot be supported by their families.
I heard that you also established the foundation in the United States.
Yes I did, but besides the big issues or damages in the region, the foundation mostly helps Korean children in the States. Also, I send a few American children to South Korea every year to let them experience Korean culture, in the hope that they could introduce Korea to Americans in the U.S.
Would you, as a role model, like to hold a seminar with youths in Boston?
(Smiling) It is kind of hard to answer right now but I will definitely try.
ⓒ 보스톤코리아(http://www.bostonkorea.com), 무단전재 및 재배포 금지