The pivotal moments in a golf career often don’t reveal themselves until well after the fact but not for NSW Amateur star Doey Choi.
The 19-year-old finished T4 at the Pacific Bay Resort Australian Ladies Classic – Bonville last week, a performance that will likely confirm in Choi’s mind what many already feel is the case – that she has almost all the tools necessary for a successful professional career.
Choi stunned the field with an opening 66 to lead by two shots at the North Coast resort, but that wasn’t her most impressive – or important – golf of the week.
Good players don’t thrive on their good play. They find a way to survive when things aren’t going well, and Choi proved she is capable of doing just that in round two.
After all the headlines and hoopla surrounding her Thursday round, Choi bogeyed two of her first three holes Friday.
For longtime observers of the game, it was a not unexpected blip for a player clearly well out of her comfort zone. In fact, nobody would have been too critical had Choi gone on to shoot 78.
But she didn’t. She fought hard, turning 1-over and even managing to scrape into red figures for the day with a birdie at the 14th before stumbles at the brutally difficult par-4 16th and par-3 17th ultimately saw her sign for 74.
It was far from the best score of the day but, under the circumstances, it was some of the best golf.
“I think I did a really good job of keeping it together,” she said after her Friday round. “I had a few lazy holes towards the end, but it was all right.”Doey Choi after her second round.
Choi trod water Saturday with an uneventful even par 72 that included one birdie and one bogey, but she went into the final round just two off the pace and outright fifth.
Again well out of her comfort zone, Choi could have been forgiven for falling back in the pack, especially after a bogey at the third hole.
But as she had Friday, she hit the reset button and reeled off three birdies to the turn and another at the 10th to grab the outright lead.
On a day when as many as six players held a share of the lead at one point – including two LPGA Tour players and several tournament winners – it was impressive, to say the least.
Again offered the opportunity to falter Choi did the opposite and impressed with solid pars through one of Bonville’s most difficult stretches at 11, 12 and 13.
With the par-5 14th to come – the third easiest hole all week – a birdie looked likely, and Choi would be well in control of the tournament.
But as it so often does, golf saved it’s cruellest blow for the most inopportune moment, and Choi made an unforgivable mistake at 14 with a third shot that found a hazard long and left of the green.
The double bogey that followed cost her any chance of victory, but while Marianne Skarpnord hoisted the trophy, Choi may still have been the biggest winner in many ways.
“Good players don’t thrive on their good play. They find a way to survive when things aren’t going well, and Choi proved she is capable of doing just that in round two.”
Now armed with the knowledge she can compete with the game’s elite Choi just requires a boost in yardage to go with her new-found confidence.
“A lot of the girls hit it a lot further than me,” she said when reflecting on the week.
“I was always behind the group all day. But my short game helped me a lot this week, and that is a really strong part of my game.
“There wasn’t much difference between me and the other pros around the greens.”
Rightfully proud of her performance under the pump Choi’s most unexpected discovery at Bonville might ultimately prove one of the most important: it turns out, she loves the limelight.
“I loved it, having the cameras there,” she said of playing in the final few groups Sunday and earning plenty of air time.
“I tried hard not to think about it, but it’s in your face. I enjoyed going out and doing the thing that I love doing, and a lot of my family and friends back at home were watching me and supporting me. It was a good feeling.”
Choi tees up with the professionals again in this week’s Actew AGL Classic in Canberra then heads to Adelaide to represent Australia at the Queen Sirikit Cup.
In April it is the Women’s Asia Pacific Amateur but beyond that who knows?
At the top levels of the game, the golf course becomes a sanctuary for the players, and it is all the peripheral nonsense – dealing with media and sponsors and sorting out schedules – that makes golf a job.
Choi has the ideal personality to embrace all that and if she can pick up 10 to 15 yards off the tee will have all the tools necessary to pursue a successful professional career.
And if she does, she will undoubtedly look back at this past week in Bonville as at least one of the pivotal moments in her career.