SEOUL: South Korean golfer Choi Hye-jin has had to forgo US$630,000 in prize money over the last two weeks due to her amateur status but the 17-year-old has big plans for her career after she turns professional in September.
Hall of Fame plans.
Choi, the world number two amateur, finished runner-up to compatriot Park Sung-hyun at the U.S. Women's Open in New Jersey on Sunday, coming within three shots of becoming the first amateur champion since Catherine Lacoste in 1967.
In addition to missing out on the bumper US$540,000 (412,686.28 pounds) prize money due to her amateur status, Choi also had to forgo the 100 million won (US$88,845) winner's cheque from a Korean event earlier this month.
Choi, who turns 18 next month, finished 38th at the U.S. Open last year at CordeValle in California and arrived at Trump National in New Jersey with some modest targets.
"My number one goal was just to make the cut and do better than last year," Yonhap News quoted her as saying on Tuesday. "I also thought that if things went well I could finish in the top 10."
Things went really well for the teenager and had she not dunked her tee shot into the water at the par-three 16th while co-leading the tournament on Sunday, she might have been returning to South Korea with the trophy.
"I knew as soon as I hit it, it was in the water," she said of her errant tee shot, adding that she could not stop thinking about it on the flight home.
"I kept thinking if only I could hit the shot over again."
While Choi will undoubtedly look back on the tournament as a missed opportunity, she could take the domestic KLPGA by storm if she maintains this kind of form, and there is no doubting the confidence she has in her own ability.
"I'd like to follow Pak Se-ri and Park In-bee into the Hall of Fame," she said of her future goals.
Local media quoted her coach, Park So-young, as saying she had the potential to do big things.
"If she handles the pressures of being a professional she will be a better player than any of us expect," said Park.
(Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Additional reporting by Yuna Park; Editing by John O'Brien)