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Ho Sung Choi returns to America for PGA TOUR Champions debut

4 Min Read



Competing at Cologuard Classic on sponsor exemption, his first TOUR-sanctioned start since 2019

    Written by Staff @PGATOUR

    Five years ago, Ho Sung Choi captivated the golf world as footage of his unorthodox “fisherman’s swing” made the rounds on social media. Choi played three TOUR events in 2019, acquiring plenty of fans along the way.

    He's back.

    The effervescent South Korean returns to TOUR-sanctioned competition for this week’s Cologuard Classic, where he’ll make his PGA TOUR Champions debut on a sponsor exemption. The three-time Japan Golf Tour winner, who turned 50 last September, has stayed competitively sharp in recent years; he still holds status on the Korea Professional Golfers' Association (KPGA). Now he’ll test his game against the game’s legends at the Cologuard, which begins Friday at La Paloma Country Club in Tucson, Arizona.

    As Choi met the media Wednesday in Arizona, the smile couldn’t be wiped from his face. He’s enthused to compete in a field alongside K.J. Choi, his fellow South Korean and an eight-time TOUR winner, whom he considers a mentor and inspiration. He played a full 2023 KPGA schedule, keeping his game sharp. Now he’ll try to break onto the Champions Tour, perhaps following in the footsteps of players like Steven Alker – who had no status upon turning 50 but won the Champions Tour's 2022 season-long Charles Schwab Cup title.

    “I’m very grateful that I can still play golf like I do now,” Choi said Wednesday. “I will continue to challenge and test myself to see how far I can go with my golf career.

    “Maybe it’s because I started playing golf quite late; I seem to have more passion for it. I still have a (KPGA) Tour card and Senior (Tour) seeding in Japan. I’m always testing and challenging myself to see where my limits are, and that’s what I’m doing.”

    Choi finished T33 at Final Stage of Champions Tour Q-School last fall, two strokes shy of Associate Membership, which would have allowed him to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions while age 50 (non-members are limited to five exemptions; if a non-member receives a sponsor exemption and finishes in the top 48, the sponsor exemption does not count toward the five-exemption limit). His most direct path to a full Champions Tour schedule: stringing together top-10 finishes, similar to Alker's path after turning 50 in 2021.

    An uncertain road is nothing new for Choi, who was born in Pohang, South Korea, and attended a high school that specialized in jobs in the fishing industry. When he was 23, his right thumb was cut off in a chainsaw accident. “For two years, I couldn’t do anything,” he told in 2019. Then he found a part-time job at a golf course, Anyang Country Club – the role included cleaning locker rooms and stocking vending machines – and employees were encouraged to learn the game so they could better relate to players’ mindsets. At the time, he was 27; he turned pro two years later.

    He hasn't looked back, cultivating an idiosyncratic style that validates golf's "swing your swing" ethos. Choi's right leg lifts upon impact, followed by a 90-degree counterclockwise spin.

    “His left foot pirouettes, his right knee swings across his body and his clubhead stretches skyward like a home-run hitter celebrating in the batter's box,” wrote in 2019.

    That style has led to much acclaim. Choi debuted on TOUR at that year’s AT&T Pebble-Beach Pro-Am, and he also played the TOUR’s John Deere Classic and Barracuda Championship later that summer. Although he didn't make a cut, he looks back fondly at the experience, just as he views the journey as a whole.

    "I'm so honored to have a chance to play with so many legends," Choi said Wednesday. "I'm very grateful for this opportunity. I think golf is always not how I want it to be, and it's always changing, and that's the beauty of it ... Just like how we all look different, everyone has different golf swings. That's the beauty of golf, to have your own unique swing.

    “I’ve learned golf by myself; I’m still training by myself,” he continued. “But in my country, Mr. K.J. Choi pioneered the PGA TOUR first. Mr. Choi is now respected by so many young players and has a lot of influence. So when I first came to the States, Mr. Choi has taken care of me a lot, and I’m so grateful for that.”

    Now he’ll tackle the Champions Tour, alongside his home country’s golf pioneer.

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