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Grateful for friendships forged on tour, Choi Na-yeon bids emotional farewell to LPGA

WONJU, South Korea– South Korean golfer Choi Na-yeon bid an emotional adieu to the LPGA Tour on home soil Sunday, wrapping up a 15-year career that included nine wins and a major championship.

Choi, who started her final round on the 10th hole, began crying walking off the ninth tee during the final round of the BMW Ladies Championship, the lone LPGA tournament held in South Korea each year. With tears falling down her cheeks, Choi made par on the par-five hole to finish the round at four-under 68, her best score at the 72-hole tournament at Oak Valley Country Club in Wonju, some 85 kilometers east of Seoul. She ended up at two-under 286 for the tournament. She also had her fourth career LPGA hole-in-one on the 12th hole during the third round.
The 34-year-old announced her retirement plans earlier this month and said the BMW Ladies Championship would be her final LPGA tournament.

“I am most grateful for having made such dear friends,” Choi said, after watching a video tribute featuring fellow LPGA players, current and former, such as Park In-bee, Shin Ji-yai, Lee Jeong-eun, Ryu So-yeon and Kim Song-hee. They also attended Choi’s final press conference.

“I’ve had a fruitful 15-year run, and I am taking away a lot of fond memories,” Choi said. “I’d like to pat myself on the back for hanging in there for so many years, and it was nice to have a good finish.”

Choi, who won the LPGA Tour’s money and scoring titles in 2010, and then the U.S. Women’s Open in 2012, said she has “no regrets, whatsoever” about her career.

“I did my very best in every moment,” Choi said. “I’ve always tried to make sure I wouldn’t have regrets in the end.”

Choi said she was trying to hold back tears for her final 18 holes Sunday, but the floodgates opened when her playing partner, fellow Korean Amy Yang, started crying after they had teed off on the ninth.

“I couldn’t even see the ball on that last putt, because I was crying so much,” Choi said with a smile.

Choi said she was most grateful for the friends she’d made on the LPGA Tour. She was a member of a wildly successful generation of Korean female golfers who picked up the club after watching Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri win majors in 1998. That group includes Park In-bee and Shin Ji-yai, both former No. 1s with multiple major titles.

“It is not easy to be friends with someone you’re competing against on the tour,” Choi said. “My friends were always there for me, and they always wanted the best for me. I am really thankful.”

Choi said she would have loved to share a few drinks with her friends to celebrate her career, but she has been undergoing some dental treatment that prevents her from consuming any alcohol. The next best thing for Choi is to sleep in for a change.

“I am just happy I won’t have to get up at four or five in the morning now,” Choi said. “I think I’ve made a great choice to retire.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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