Compaq K.J. | Asian Tour

Compaq K.J.

Published on May 5, 2021

It is fair to say there have been many landmark moments during the stellar career of Korea’s K.J. Choi.

But perhaps one that standouts more than most is his victory in the Compaq Classic of New Orleans, achieved on this day in 2002.

The significance of the victory is both personal and historic: it was his maiden success on the PGA Tour and, more importantly, it was the first win by a Korean there.

With millions of fans watching back home in the middle of the night, Choi did not disappoint and fired a final round five-under-par 67 for a four-stroke victory.

NEW ORLEANS – MAY 5: K.J. Choi is congratulated by his wife Hyun Jung Kim after winning the Compaq Classic at English Turn Golf and Country Club in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 5, 2002. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“I believe it will influence a generation of Korean golfers to come to the U.S. and try out for the PGA,” Choi said, through an interpreter. “In that sense, the win is very special.”

He earned the US$810,000 winner’s check with a 17-under-par 271 total, holding off a number of challengers in perfect scoring conditions on English Turn Golf & Country Club.

Australian Geoff Ogilvy and Dudley Hart from the United States came the closest, finishing with 67s to tie for second, at 13-under 275.

Choi took the lead in the second round and was tied but never trailed after that.

“This win is very special to me because when I first came to the U.S. I had a 10-year plan laid out,” Choi said. “It’s earlier than I thought it would happen, but it’s part of the plan.”

NEW ORLEANS – MAY 5: K.J. Choi of Korea hits his second shot on the 15th hole during the final round of the Compaq Classic at English Turn Golf and Country Club in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 5, 2002. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

He had two birdies on the front nine for a one-stroke lead at the turn, and sank a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 11 to go to 15 under – two shots ahead of three players.

Choi increased his lead with a birdie on No. 13. His second shot on the 16th rolled to the lip of the cup and sat there, just short of an eagle and a five-shot lead.

The Korean star described that as the turning point in the round. He said he knew it was a good shot, but did not think it was an eagle.

He chipped in for his final birdie on No. 17 – a 35-footer from out of the rough, before he could afford to finish with the luxury of a bogey at the last.

Having secured his PGA Tour card in 1999, to become the first Korean to do so, victory in New Orleans was indeed a quick transition to the winners’ circle.

And having got a taste for it, he promptly won again later that year at the Tampa Bay Classic.

He won in Tampa by a commanding seven shots to help signal the start of a career that would see him become Asia’s most prolific winner on the PGA Tour with eight titles.

And, boasting six wins on the Asian Tour, plus 29 globally, it’s not difficult to understand why the Korean star is also an Honorary Member of the Asian Tour.