Chella Choi's annual dinner bash gives players authentic Korean experience

Chella Choi's annual dinner bash gives players authentic Korean experience

LPGA Tour

Chella Choi's annual dinner bash gives players authentic Korean experience

INCHEON, South Korea – The parade of food was endless at Wal Mae Jip.  Chella Choi’s transition from player to hostess looked as effortless as her swing.

“Two weeks before, I make a list,” she said, taking special requests from guests and making sure there’s a nice variety of South Korean foods on offer ­– bulgogi, noodles and soups. At Korea barbecue, the meats are often prepared on grills that are built into the tables.

Choi’s annual dinner party began eight years ago as a thank you to LPGA staff and rules officials. That initial gathering, Choi’s first appearance at the KEB Hank Bank Championship, had about 15 guests. But as players kept asking for recommendations for local Korean barbecue, Choi kept extending invitations to players, caddies, even media. Several dozen were on hand Monday evening at Wal Mae Jip, a small restaurant owned by Mr. Hwang, an actor and friend of Choi’s father, Ji. 

It was important for Choi to find a place that gave her guests an authentic experience. 

“When we are eating U.S. Korean restaurants, always we are sitting in a chair, right?” she said. “I wanted you guys sitting on the ground.” 

Brittany Lincicome can’t get enough Korean BBQ and annually attends Choi’s dinner with good friend Anna Nordqvist. This year’s guest list also included the likes of Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Ryann O’Toole and Pernilla Lindberg. 

“It’s like the highlight of my week,” gushed Lincicome.

There’s no scrimping at Choi’s feast. She floats from table to table throughout the evening to make sure everyone is satisfied. No one on tour goes to such lengths at what amounts to a hometown event. Guests even leave with party favors. 

Outside of the dinner, Choi is most known for telling her father that he couldn’t stop caddying for her until she won on the LPGA. Chella, a rookie in 2009, finally won in 2015 but still hasn’t quite found a way to replace dad, though she has tried. Ji, a retired policeman, asked for this week off so that he could enjoy it with friends in South Korea. Chella granted the request. 

“I’m a really good boss, right?” she asked, grinning.

Even without carrying the bag, Ji was by Chella’s side inside the ropes during Wednesday’s pro-am round. Chella calls him her best friend, saying he’s always right. 

“If you come again to Korea, let’s eat together,” said Choi, before catching up to her father. 

It’s a phrase that will be repeated often this week.

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