Sometimes they announce after their final event. When Suzann Pettersen holed her dramatic last putt to clinch the 2019 Solheim Cup, she marched to the first microphone she saw and retired from professional golf on the spot. Shanshan Feng announced that she was walking away from the LPGA Tour earlier this summer, months after she’d played her last event.
There are others. For example, Lorena Ochoa retired from her Hall of Fame career after she got married.
Then there are some players who announce ahead of time, setting a specific year or week or event in the future when they plan to call it quits. Annika Sorenstam did that and spent the better part of a year on a fairwell tour.
This week, another major champion is waving goodbye to her colleagues and countrywomen on the LPGA Tour. Nine-time winner and major champion Na Yeon Choi announced last month that, “After a long deliberation, I decided to end my career as a golfer and start a new chapter in my life. It was not an easy decision, but I believe I made the right choice for my future.”
The 35-year-old golfer wrote a letter to fans that said, in part, “There were a lot of happy moments (in my career) but at the same time I always felt lonely spending my entire 20s playing golf in the U.S. There were times when I loved it so much and also hated it so much… I believe I did my best throughout my career, so there are no regrets.”
This week at the BMW Ladies Championship in Gangwon Province, Choi will play her final LPGA Tour event. In the BMW media center on Tuesday, she said, “Starting this season, I really gave myself to this season, and around midseason it crystalized into this decision to retire. There was no one single moment where I decided this was the time to announce my retirement.
I have been playing for a long time and I think on the bright side, I really want to start something new as fast as I can. What that’s going to be, I have no idea. But I have no regrets with my career as a golfer.”
Her immediate plans include one more event after this week, the KLPGA’s SK Shieldus-SK Telecom Championship in November. In addition to her nine LPGA Tour wins, Choi won six times on the KLPGA Tour.
“It is regrettable that I didn’t hang out much with other golfers as I focused solely on playing golf,” Choi said in her letter. “I want to thank my fans for encouraging me all those years, and I want to thank my beloved family, who constantly supported me and sacrificed so much.”
On Tuesday, she was asked what advice she would give to the current crop of youngsters on the LPGA Tour, including rookie Atthaya Thitikul, who was in the press conference with Choi.
“First of all, I don’t really think they need any of my advice,” she said. “But now that I’m looking to retire, looking back when I was a rookie, when I was 20 years old, I think about what was different about me back then. I have to say when I was 20, I had a lot of confidence and I was really fearless.
“Although I don’t really think they need my advice, I’ve been on tour for 15 years and at this point I really have no regrets. I gave it my all and I hope that they can do the same, too, and they can also look back later, 10-, 15 years later and have no regret as well.”
Choi has always been genuine, sharing the highs and lows of her life and career since joining the LPGA Tour in 2008. That won’t change.
“I’m sure that I’m probably going to end up doing something related to golf,” she said on Tuesday. “I’m very excited to start the second chapter.”