Chella Choi was a member of the 2006 Korean
National Second Team; that year, she also won the Korea Junior
Golf Association Championship.
In 2007, she played at a KLPGA event and finished
14th while still an amateur. At the end of that year, she
turned pro and came to America, where she joined the Futures
Tour. In 2008, she played 17 events on tour, making four top
tens including a second place finish. She finished the year
ranked 17th on tour in money.
That December, she went to LPGA Qualifying
School. By the end of the week, she was one of four players
left playing for the final two full membership cards. They
played three holes to determine their fate. Choi birdied the
first, and after three holes, had the lead; one of the two
cards was hers! Thus, she became a rookie on tour in 2009.
In 2009, Choi worked hard to gain full status,
but in the end just fell short, finishing 86th on the year
end money list. Her best finish was a 20th. Choi's record
improved in 2010. She made twice as much money, finished higher
on the money list, and earned category 1 status for 2011.
She was still looking for her first top ten finish, however.
Chella's career made a major move up in 2011.
She scored her first two top tens, had a fabulous US Women's
Open where she nearly made another top ten, and made over
$300,000 on the season to finish 35th on the money list. She
also had a scoring average below par for the first time ever.
This performance positioned her as one of the most promising
of the young Koreans on tour.
In 2012, Chella took another huge leap forward
in her career, contending multiple times for titles and finishing
in the top 20 on the money list (20th) for the first time
in her career. She still didn't win, but she lost in a playoff
at the Manulife, where she shot her career best score of 63
in the final round, and was tied for the lead on the back
nine at the CN Canadian Women's Open before fading to 3rd.
She notched five other top tens, another career best, including
her first ever top ten in a Major at the British Open and
a tie for third at the Jamie Farr and the HSBC Brasil Cup.
Her scoring average was also a career best, and she earned
twice what she had in her previous best season, 2011.
Chella revealed to the press that she intended to keep her
father as her caddie until she won her first LPGA event, upon
which he would be allowed to retire. In 2013, Chella's dad
came close to retiring several times, but he will still be
on her bag in 2014. Still, it was another season where she
improved a lot. Her best moment probably came at the Mizuno
Classic, where she vaulted into the lead in the final round
thanks to a 66, only to see Theresa Lu, a Taiwanese player
who had lost LPGA privileges and played on the JLPGA, shoot
a 64, with birdies on her final two holes, to zoom ahead of
her and get the win. Chella's solo second place finish was
her career best.
Chella also was a factor at two different Majors. She contended
at the Evian until a triple bogey late on Sunday dropped her
to sixth. She also played well at the LPGA Championship, where
she made her best ever Major finish, a tie for 5th. At the
Mobile Bay LPGA Classic she led after three rounds, but could
not find enough birdies on Sunday and finished tied for 4th.
In 2013, Chella managed 7 top tens, finished a career high
17th on the money list, made more than $750,000 on the year
(also a career record), and had a fantastic 70.69 scoring
average, 10th in the league. With Amy Yang finally getting
her first win in 2013, Chella had now become the best Korean
golfer without a tour win.
Chella had her best season yet in 2014, but
wins still eluded her. She notched 10 top tens, a new personal
record, and finished with over a million dollars in earnings
for the first time in her career. She also finished in the
top ten on the money list for the first time. But still, no
wins. Her closest brush with a victory came early in the year
at the Australian Women's Open. Following her career best
score of 62 in round 3, Choi was leading going into the final
round. Alas, Karrie Webb shot a low score early, and Choi
was not able to make the final birdie she needed to catch
Webb. She finished second.
At the end of the year, Chella was chosen
by the LPGA players to receive the William and Mousie Powell
award, given each year to the player who best exmeplifies
the spirit of the LPGA. She is the first Korean to receive
that award. She also played in the year-ending team match
between Japan and Korea; she teamed with Mirim Lee to win
a team match, then won her singles match as well.
Chella's 2015 season was not quite as strong
as 2014. She managed 4 top tens and put herself into contention
at the US Women's Open by shooting a blistering 6 under par
64 in the third round (however, she faded to 20th in the end).
But 2015 had one major highlight: Chella finally broke through
for her first win on the LPGA tour!
The win came at the Marathon Classic in July.
Chella found herself duking it out with rookies Q Baek and
Ha Na Jang among others. She struggled on the final hole,
but still scrambled for par. But all Jang needed was a birdie
on this par 5 and the win was hers. Alas, Jang did not make
her short birdie putt, and Chella and Jang were in a playoff!
One hole later, Chella had her first win! But as it turned
out, her dad only retired from her bag for a few weeks before
he returned. She claims she will look for a permanent replacement
for him in the off season.
Chella also played in the ING Champions, a
tournament in November pitting the LPGA and KLPGA stars. Chella
and the LPGA stars won that one.
2016 was another decent year for Choi. She
earned over $600,000 and finished 31st on the money list,
and managed one top ten in a Major: an 8th at the KPMG Women's
PGA Championship. She also had a tie for 4th at the HSBC Champions
and three other top tens. At the end of the year, she again
played for the victorious LPGA team at the ING Champions,
and this time won the MVP award for her efforts.