Big Play With a breakout win, K.J. Choi displayed the balance of a champion and taught a few life lessons we can all relate to

May 12, 2002

I saw the look of a winner the moment K.J. Choi addressed the
shot that sealed his victory during the final round of the Compaq
Classic, a 107-yard pitching wedge at the 16th hole that stopped
at the edge of the cup for a tap-in birdie (above). It wasn't
Choi's stone-cold visage that so impressed me but rather his
perfect balance. You can tell a good Tour player from a great one
by comparing their balance, and Choi's is as good as I've seen
throughout the setup, swing and finish. I wasn't surprised to
hear that a solid base is Choi's chief concern before every shot.
"I want to make sure both feet are in balance as I set up to the
ball," Choi said following the victory, "and once I take my
stance, I move my hips from side to side a few times to get into
the groove, so to speak, and then I swing."

NEVER TOO LATE Don't be shocked that Choi, 31, didn't take up
golf until he was 16. Contrary to popular opinion, it's never
too late to learn the game. Just look at me. I didn't hit my
first shot until age 35, but within three years I had taught
myself well enough to break 90. Three years after that, with the
help of instructor Richard Grout, I was scratch.

PATIENCE PAYS After turning pro in 1994, Choi toiled in relative
obscurity for seven years before achieving his goal of winning
on Tour. I, too, know about perseverance. After my 20-year
military career--during which I landed at Omaha Beach and later
fought in the Battle of the Bulge--I tried to get work at golf
courses across Pennsylvania and Ohio, but nobody would hire me
because of the racial discrimination of the day. So beginning in
1960 I supported my family working as a missile inspector at an
Air Force base and selling insurance, while moonlighting as a
golf instructor. I finally got my first teaching position in
1987 at Great Lakes Naval Base, outside Chicago, at the tender
age of 66.

BATTLE PLAN Discipline, which I learned in the U.S. Army, is the
key to good golf. At West Point, I learned to take apart and
reassemble a machine gun blindfolded, so I had no problem
attending to my weapon during combat. Similarly, a golfer needs
to practice so that he can execute under the gun without
thinking, as Choi did on Sunday with amazing grace.

Julius Richardson, 81, teaches at the Pine Meadow Golf Club in
Mundelein, Ill., and is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.

FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ABC THREE COLOR PHOTOS: PORTER BINKS (3)

THE TIP

Proper balance is the foundation of every efficient swing, and
the key to good balance is having an anatomically correct address
position.

In other words, your body should be perfectly positioned before
you swing. Here's my favorite drill to learn the correct address
posture. (You can do it anywhere, because you don't need a ball.)

1. Take a driver and stand straight up with your feet
shoulder-width apart. Look directly ahead--keep your chin
up!--while holding the driver gently against your chest. The butt
end of the club should touch the bottom of your chin, and the
clubhead should hang straight down (A).

2. Slowly bend forward at the pelvis, keeping your neck straight
and the driver parallel to your chest until the clubhead sits
directly between your knees (B) or a shade behind them. You want
to bend forward about 30 degrees.

3. Shift your left hip slightly toward the target until the
clubhead touches the target-side knee (in my case, the left) or
the inside of your calf muscle. Be sure not to make the common
error of turning your hips.

4. Add a little flex in the knees, let your arms hang down and
grip the club (C). Now you're perfectly balanced and ready to
swing away.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)