Number Crunching 2012: Esther Choe
Who climbed and who dropped in 2012? Through Dec. 31, Golfweek.com takes a look at players who made significant moves up or down in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index this year.
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Ranking/movement: Unranked to No. 136
Why the rise? A simpler approach. Choe went in for her first lesson with instructor Matt Mitchell after LPGA Q-School last winter and was told she had a terrible attitude. Her answers to many of Mitchell’s questions involved the words “used to.” The former top-ranked junior had struggled as a pro, finishing as low as 120th on the Symetra Tour money list in 2009.
In addition to the attitude adjustment, Mitchell told her the club was too shut going back. Choe, 23, said her mind was so cluttered from so many coaches with different swing thoughts and theories that she worried Mitchell’s instruction was too simple.
Instead, it worked. Choe signed up for a few early Symetra Tour events last spring to get warmed up for her first season on the Ladies European Tour and wound up winning the first two events and finishing runner-up in the third. That torrid start helped Choe win the Symetra Tour money title in only six starts, a record, and earn Player of the Year. Grace Park and Lorena Ochoa held the previous mark, with 10 events in 1999 and ’02, respectively.
“It’s kind of a cool thing that will follow me forever,” Choe said of the record.
In Europe, Choe traveled with good friend Stephanie Na and sought a fresh start on a tour where few knew her. After a starter at LPGA Q-School mistakenly read their names together on a tee sheet, the pair became known as “Team NaChoe.” Together, “Team NaChoe” made more than its share of wrong turns traveling from country to country. However, the international experience was liberating for Choe, who had spent much of her career feeling suffocated under the weight of expectations. She made it a point to sightsee in every city in which she played.
Choe, who posted five top-15 finishes in 11 LET starts, had a 72.14 scoring average in Europe and a 70.88 average on the Symetra Tour. Choe was the only player on the Symetra Tour to win twice in 2012.
Choe says: “My swing has become a lot more simple. . . . In my junior-golf days, I did very well, but that’s as far as (my game) would have taken me.”