January 23, 2012

No Ordinary Life: K.J. Choi Relies on Faith to Handle U.S. Open Pressure


It’s easy to understand why K.J. Choi is one of the most popular players on the PGA Tour. When you combine a positive outlook with a genuinely caring and humble personality, you’re going to be well liked.

But Choi is just doing what comes naturally. This is who he is, slapping hands and waving to tournament patrons with a kind smile and a tip of his visor, all in the heat of battle against the best golfers in the world.

It’s a gentleman’s game and Choi fits the bill.

But he’s more than a nice guy who’s following of fans is growing each week. Choi himself is also one of the best golfers on the planet—currently No. 16 in the Official World Golf Ranking, to be exact.

* * *

K.J. Choi grew up the son of a farmer/fisherman.

As a teenage power-lifter, he earned the nickname “Tank” because he could squat 350 pounds, although he weighed a mere 95.

He didn’t have the upper-body strength to pursue that sport. So upon the recommendation of one of his high school teachers, he turned to golf when he was 16-years-old, studying Jack Nicklaus lesson books and videos and spending countless hours hitting practice balls on his island home’s only practice range.

Eight years later, Choi became the first Korean to earn his PGA Tour card. And he has since won an impressive eight golf tournaments, including last month’s playoff victory at the Players Championship.

Choi tees off today as one of the favorites to win the 111th playing of the U.S. Open Championship.

In this article for FaithVillage, I spent some time chatting with him about his faith in God and how he applies it to his everyday life.

K.J., what is your favorite Bible verse?

My favorite Bible verse is Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Whenever I think of this verse, I feel confidence, comfort, assurance that God is with me, looking over me.  It gives me the strength and courage I need.  Moving to the U.S. and dealing with the new culture, people, and language—let alone trying to play competitive golf amongst the best players in the world—was not easy.  This verse provided me with all the comfort and strength I needed to move forward my way, with what I believed. And I revert back to this verse when I’m down.

How do you apply your faith in God to your everyday life?

I live with the Lord everyday.  He is someone I look up to, that I confide in, that I trust, that I give myself to.  My prayers are my way of connecting with the Lord everyday, communicating with Him.  This gives me a piece of mind.  The most common mistake that people make and take for granted is that we think everything we own is ours.  God gave us everything but we think it’s ours.  I have come to understand that all the things I own are not mine. God gave them to me.  I need to maintain that during my lifetime and pass it on to others, share.

How do you deal with that tournament pressure—or the difficulty of making shots and putts down the stretch to win a golf tournament, like at the Players a few weeks ago?

I pray a lot. Praying gives me comfort. The Lord tells me not to get over my head.  He prevents me from rushing into my shots and allows me to take a step back and ease my mind.  This is where I look to Joshua 1:9.

How do you balance your golf career with your family life? Is that difficult with a wife and three kids?

As you can imagine, it’s not an easy job trying to balance my family life with my professional career.  In all honesty, I’m not a good dad and husband, but I try to do my best for my kids.  During my off weeks, I try to focus on the kids and help around the household when I can.  But overall, I lack in so many areas. A lot of times I can’t be there for them.  I make mistakes, too, and I try my best within my capability. But you know, there’s always room for improvement.

You recently donated $200,000 to tornado relief here in the U.S. Would you please talk about your motivation to help others and to be active in your community and a Christian example and role model?

When I decided to take up golf at the age of 16, I had nothing—just me and a golf club.

But along the process, I was fortunate enough to have the guidance from elders, friends, mentors, school, etc., that provided me with the necessary help I needed to pursue my career.  That’s where the importance of the community comes in.

We are part of a community and the community operates by helping one another. Like the way I received help, I want to help others so they can someday help the generation after them.  As I mentioned before, we are born with nothing, and when we die, we cannot take anything.

At the same time, there are so many people who need help, who with a little bit of help and attention can make a difference in our society. It’s that simple belief that I relate to, that motivates me to help and share with others.

I don’t want to live an ordinary life, a life without God.  When people see me, I want them to want to believe in the God that I believe in.  I try to live different. My life is different than those unbelievers who don’t have a belief in Jesus, our Savior.


Originally posted on June 16, 2011

Originally Published: January 23, 2012
Category: Sports and Recreation
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