Na Yeon Choi won her first major at the U.S. Womenâ€™s Open, and she closed the season by winning the LPGA Titleholders.
But her most remarkable performance came when the season was over.
Players for whom English is their second (or third) language can get by in an interview with print reporters. They tend be a lot 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 Channelâ€™s â€œMorning Drive.â€™â€™
The LPGA staff helped her prepare for questions that might be asked, and when it didnâ€™t go according to script, Choi still handled it beautifully.
That wasnâ€™t an accident.
As hard as Choi has worked on her game, she might have worked even harder on her English. Last year, she hired a personal tutor â€“ Greg Morrison, a Canadian based in South Korea â€“ 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 them feel more comfortable in public and ultimately improve their golf.
â€œFirst year when I was here, I couldnâ€™t speak English well and then very hard to tell my feelings to people, even media or fans or even swing coach,â€™â€™ Choi said. â€˜â€™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.â€™â€™
Morrison couldnâ€™t travel with her this year, though they still practiced through Skype. She had another one-hour lesson during the Titleholders and planned to meet with him again while she was home during the offseason.
â€˜â€™We talk about not only golf, we talk about anything,â€™â€™ Choi said. â€˜â€™Like, I said Iâ€™m going to look for a new house and he tried to help me with which house is better for me. Heâ€™s more like, not just English tutor, heâ€™s more like manager or assistant to me.â€™â€™
Do they ever talk baseball?
â€œNot really,â€™â€™ she said. â€˜â€™I think heâ€™s a hockey fan.â€™â€™