Choi “Tank” Kyung-Joo, a golf pioneer who nurtures young players

The home of Kyung-ju Choi (53, SK Telecom) in Dallas, USA is crowded with guests in the new year of 2023. This is because 15 people, including 11 players from Korea, a leader and a coach, are staying under one roof. Choi Gyeong-ju’s house is being used as a lodging for the Choi Gyeong-ju Foundation’s winter training for young golfers, which runs for six weeks until February 16th.

In a phone interview that lasted over an hour and a half with the Pacific Ocean in between, Choi Kyung-ju said, “I learn a lot while staying with the young players, and I am less worried because I can always watch over them like my own children.” I got it right,” he said in a bright voice.

A living legend of Korean golf, Kyung-Joo Choi, ‘The Tank’, has been rolling up his sleeves in nurturing promising players since launching a charity foundation named after himself in 2007. His wish is to “become a ray of hope and a bright light for young athletes who are dreaming of reaching the top of the world.”

The Dream Tree Camp, which started in 2008, was held every year in China and moved to the United States in 2020 in the aftermath of Corona 19. Every camp, Choi Kyung-ju splits his busy schedule to take care of each player who is the age of his children.

Hard training during the day, character training at nightThe training schedule at Winter Chase Golf Club and Texas Golf Center is so tight that each day feels short.

“I wake up at 6:30 am and eat at 7:30. In the morning, I do stretching and bunker shot training for over two hours. In the afternoon, I focus on shot practice and strength training. Twice a week we do practice rounds, one like a real competition. That way, you can learn to have fun even when you’re nervous.”

Choi Kyung-ju, explaining his daily routine, was full of motivation. Choi Kyung-joo’s bunker shot is praised as a world-class masterpiece. It is also a major subject in this camp. He is improving his accurate ball-striking ability through clay shots that he has devised ingeniously.

“Clay is soil made by grinding stones well. It’s red clay used for tennis courts, but when watered and sprinkled with salt, it becomes a bit soft like injeolmi. If you draw a gold on it and then have the ball hit repeatedly, the impact accuracy goes up. I made the only practice field in the world in Dallas (laughs).”

On clay, if you don’t hit the ball accurately, you can’t hit it properly. Choi Gyeong-ju said, “Through this training, the number of children who hit the ground has noticeably decreased and the flight distance has increased. The effect is perfect. If you can hit the ball the way you want on clay, there will be no problem in any course situation in the future.”

The sand bunker used at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, USA, where the Masters is held, is also used for training. Kyung-ju Choi explains that the sand at regular golf courses is light, so the club passes easily when shooting bunker shots, reducing the effectiveness of practice. The sand used in Masters is heavy and has strong resistance, so you can feed spin well and feel the sound when you hit a bunker shot. “It’s fun because it makes the sound of sand being kicked out every time you hit a shot, and if you remember that feeling, your skills will improve.”

After a hard training day, the players end the day by shouting, “Let’s go home now!” Choi Kyung-ju said, “It’s just nice to see him like that.”

Character education continues in the evening after returning home. In the living room meeting, we talk to each other about the good things, lessons learned, and regrettable parts of the day, and have a Q&A session. Also write a gratitude journal. Every Tuesday, I listen to a remote lecture by Professor Cho Byeok of the HD Happiness Research Institute. Choi Kyung-joo said, “Personality is skill. The importance of class, etiquette, and greetings is often talked about. He comforts his colleagues when they are having a hard time, and asks them to help each other when something goes wrong. It is also emphasized that in order to get out of the slump quickly, you must have a clear vision.”

“I am proud of the rise in the international status of Korean men’s golf”

Meal preparation is mainly the responsibility of Choi Kyung-joo’s wife, Kim Hyeon-jeong. Kyung-ju Choi said of her “When you go to the grocery store, one of her large carts is full. Her wife peels 50 or 100 potatoes a day, and she does it with pleasure, thinking of the children,” she said. She conducted a survey of all the players about foods they would like to eat, such as kimchi stew, stir-fried pork, and chicken stir-fried soup. She made sure that at least one person at each meal always had what she wanted.

She is Choi Kyung-joo and she has 2 boys and 1 girl. Her eldest son is helping with the foundation after completing his military service in the Korean Marine Corps. Her second daughter is majoring in architecture at Cornell University in the US Ivy League. Her youngest son is walking the path of a golf player at Duke University, a prestigious American golf club. It is evaluated that she did well in child farming.

Choi Kyung-ju is a pioneer in the field, the first Korean player to enter the PGA Tour in 2000. Even in her early days, everything was unfamiliar and ‘eating alone’ was a daily routine. However, Choi Kyung-ju became a role model by winning 8 times on the PGA Tour. As the number of players who dream of becoming the ‘second Choi Kyung-ju’ increases, Korean men’s golf has grown into a world-class player commanding the PGA Tour.

In the 2022 Presidents Cup, in which Choi Kyung-joo participated as vice-captain, four players – Lee Kyung-hoon, Kim Si-woo, Lim Seong-jae, and Kim Joo-hyung – set a record for the most appearances ever. Just as Korean female players were super strong on the LPGA Tour in the past, it is said that Korean male players are in their prime on the PGA Tour.

Choi Kyung-joo said, “I am proud that the international status of Korean men’s golf has risen. Even 20 years ago, there were a lot of Australian and Japanese players, but Korean players have overtaken them. Even on the PGA Tour alone, aren’t there 7 or 8 Korean players playing? We are proud of our young juniors with outstanding skills. However, if you stick to the basics, you can achieve a long run.”

Choi Kyung-ju is still active as a player. He became the first Korean to jump into the PGA Champions Tour, where over 50 years of age participate, and took the top spot at the 2021 Pure Insurance Championship.

Having set this year’s goal of two wins, he extended a three-year sponsorship contract with SK Telecom, the main sponsor, in January 2023. As a result, Choi Kyung-ju will be on the same boat for 16 years until 2025 after forming a relationship with SK Telecom as a sub-sponsor in 2010. This is an exceptional long-term contract at home and abroad.

After breaking up with Nike in 2009, Choi Kyung-joo, who had been invincible for a while, signed a main sponsor contract with SK Telecom in 2011, and became the first Asian player to win the Players Championship, called the ‘5th major’ that year, and was in his second heyday. .

The existence of SK Telecom was also a great support for Choi Kyung-joo to change the history of Korean golf and exert his good influence. Choi Kyung-joo said, “(at SK Telecom) it is important that I am not cut (laughs). I was able to come this far because he gave me so much support and strength. I am very grateful.” He also said, “Every year (men’s professional golf) SK Telecom Open as well as junior competitions are supported, and 100 million won is sponsored every year to the foundation.”

Choi Kyung-ju first entered the SK Telecom Open in 1997 and has played 20 times by 2022. He is the most entrant in the event and also the most winner (3 times). According to the Korea Professional Golf Association (KPGA), the SK Telecom Open, which was held for the 25th time in 2022, has the best history as a KPGA pure management event. It has been the cradle of male golf stars for a quarter of a century.

SK Telecom, a big support for Kyung-Joo Choi

Choi Kyung-joo worked hard to organize the event without receiving an invitation fee when it became unclear whether or not to host the SK Telecom Open due to the aftermath of the past global recession. During the tournament, she devoted herself to talent donation, fan meeting events, and charity events. 카지노사이트

SK Telecom is practicing sports ESG (Environment, Society, and Governance) through a partnership with the Choi Kyung-Joo Foundation. For nine years from 2014 to 2022, the ‘SKT-Kyungju Choi Scholarship Dream’ project was carried out with the Kyungju Choi Foundation. Through this, scholarships were provided to university students from low-income families across the country to nurture talents who would contribute to society. About 290 students received support over 9 years.

The Choi Kyung-joo Foundation is also continuously carrying out a project to support promising golfers. Park Min-ji, who is referred to as the ‘trend’ of the Korea Women’s Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) tour, Lee Ga-young, Kim Seo-yoon, In Ju-yeon, and Lee Jae-kyung and Kim Min-gyu, who have emerged as young guns on the KPGA tour, are former scholarship recipients of Choi Kyung-joo. More than 100 players have been through so far. Park Min-ji, Lee Ga-young and others succeeded as professional golfers and donated money to the Choi Kyung-joo Foundation.

Kyung-Joo Choi is also hosting an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) golf tournament in New Jersey, USA, sponsored by SK Telecom. This tournament serves as a bridgehead for Korean golf prospects to improve their skills and advance into the United States. Park Sang-ha, the winner of this tournament in 2018, is aiming to enter the PGA Tour by going to an American university.

Oh Kyung-sik, in charge of sports marketing at SK Telecom, said, “I am grateful for the passion for golf that Pro Kyung-Joo Choi showed while working with SK Telecom, and for the support and efforts for his juniors.” I will make it,” he said.

Choi Kyung-joo, who once spent a lonely journey, seems reassured by having an extraordinary companion by his side. Their accompany is towards the great happiness of more people. It gives hope that it will go further.

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