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Golf: Joy for Choi as he crowns return from national service with a win

Choi Jin-ho won the SK Telecom in only his third event since returning from national service. Photos: Paul Lakatos/OneAsia.

Choi Jin-ho won the SK Telecom in his third event since returning from national service. Photos: Paul Lakatos/OneAsia.

May 24, 2015: Choi Jin-ho bravely drained an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the SK Telecom Open on Sunday by a stroke from fellow Korean Lee Soo-min.

 

Choi, who led after every round, closed with an even-par 72 at Sky 72 Ocean Course to finish the tournament on 10-under, while 21-year-old Lee, who broke the course record on day three with a 63, came in with a 71.

 

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

 

It was 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,” Choi said. “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.”

 

Choi, 30, drained an 18-foot putt on the 18th hole to finish one ahead of Lee Soo-min.

Choi, 30, drained an 18-foot putt on the 18th hole to finish one ahead of Lee Soo-min.

Choi, 30, finished tied for 20th in the previous week’s GS Caltex Maekyung Open, also in Korea, but few expected him to win so soon after leaving the services. He won three times on the Korean PGA Tour before joining the forces in 2012 and was one of his country’s rising stars.

 

Choi had a one-shot lead at the start of the day, made par on his first four holes before eagling the fifth, but he dropped his first shot of the day on number nine and at the turn, he and Lee were tied in front on 11-under.

 

Lee, playing in the group ahead, went out in two-under, firing an eagle on seven, two birdies and a bogey. However, he made a costly double bogey on 11 to leave Choi two ahead.

 

Choi let Lee back into the tournament by making bogey on 12 and 15 before he secured the title with a huge putt on the par-five closing hole.

 

Choi’s previous best finish on OneAsia came was when he finished joint second behind Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant at the 2011 Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open.

 

Lee Soo-min, 21, finished second for his best result in a pro event.

Lee Soo-min, 21, finished second for his best result in a pro event.

Despite losing to Choi by one, Lee was pleased with his performance. “This is my best result as a professional so I am very happy,” he said. “I made a great eight-foot par out on 18 under pressure, which was very pleasing.”

 

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

 

The prestigious Korean event, played opposite Incheon International Airport, is 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.

 

SK Telecom Open (OneAsia/Korean Tour), Sky 72 GC (Ocean Course), Incheon, South Korea

278 – Jinho CHOI (KOR) 68-68-70-72.

279 – Soomin LEE (KOR) 73-72-63-71.

280 – Dimitrios PAPADATOS (AUS) 74-69-69-68, Gareth PADDISON (NZL) 70-73-68-69, Jaebum PARK (KOR) 72-69-69-70, Kyungtae KIM (KOR) 73-69-68-70,

Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 70-74-63-73.

281 – Sanghyun PARK (KOR) 68-75-70-68, Seunghyuk KIM (KOR) 74-68-67-72, Sunghoon KANG (KOR) 69-69-69-74.

282 – Taehee LEE (KOR) 78-67-66-71, Mingyu CHO (KOR) 70-71-67-74.

283 – Anthony SUMMERS (AUS) 74-69-69-71, Ryan FOX (NZL) 68-71-72-72, David McKENZIE (AUS) 69-72-69-73.

284 – Changwoo LEE (KOR) 70-71-70-73, Sengyong KIM (KOR) 69-72-69-74.

 

Source: OneAsia (www.oneasia.asia); Editing by SportAsia

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