Choi Jin-ho Claims Maiden OneAsia Victory

Choi Jin-ho celebrates after holing the winning putt. Picture by Paul Lakatos/OneAsia.
Choi Jin-ho celebrates after holing the winning putt. Picture by Paul Lakatos/OneAsia.

Seoul, Korea: Choi Jin-ho bravely drained an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th to win the SK Telecom Open by one stroke from his young compatriot Lee Soo-min.

Choi, who led after every round, closed with an even-par 72 to finish the tournament on 10-under.

Lee, who broke the course record at Sky 72’s Ocean Course on day three with a 63, came in with a 71.

Australian Dimitrios Papadatos (68), New Zealander Gareth Paddison (69) and Koreans KT Kim (70), Wang Jeung-hun (73) and Park Jae-bum (70) tied for third two shots behind the winner.

It is Choi’s first victory on OneAsia and is part of a remarkable comeback as the SK Telecom Open is only the third tournament he has played since finishing 20 months of national service.

“Amazing, I am so relieved,” said Choi, who turns 31 next Wednesday. “It was a difficult battle all the way and I am very pleased my game held up. It is an emotional victory considering everything and a surprise to come so soon. I guess I was just very up for it.”

He finished tied for 20th in last week’s GS Caltex Maekyung Open also in Korea on OneAsia but few expected him to win so soon after leaving the services.

He claimed three events on the Korean PGA Tour before joining the forces in 2012 and was one of his country’s rising stars. One of those wins actually came in 2012 before he swapped fairways with battlefields.

Choi had a one-shot lead at the start of the day but at the turn he and Lee were tied in front on 11-under.

Choi made par on his first four holes before eagling the fifth but he dropped his first shot of the day on number nine.

Lee, playing in the group ahead, went out in two-under firing an eagle on seven, plus two birdies and a bogey.

However, Lee made a costly double-bogey on 11 to leave Choi two ahead.

The leader did his best to let Lee back into the tournament by making bogey on 12 and 15 before he secured the title with a career putt on the par-five 18th.

“This is my best result as a professional so I am very happy,” said Lee, who is aged 21 and who turned professional last year. “I made a great eight-foot par putt on 18 under pressure which was very pleasing,” he added.

Korean star KJ Choi, a three-time winner of this event, returned a 74 to finish in a tie for 21st place.

The event was the third stop of the season on OneAsia. The next event on OneAsia is the US$1 million Singha Corporation Thailand Open at Siam Country Club’s Plantation Course, from June 11-14.

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