There are a number of story lines surrounding The Players Championship last week in Ponte Vedra, Florida where K.J. Choi beat 44-year-old David Toms in a sudden death playoff. While not officially considered one of golf’s four majors, the players often refer to The Players Championship as the fifth major. The Players’ course, TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course, is a gem to watch a tournament, with the final three holes capable of providing plenty of drama.
There is the reachable par 5 16th hole with water down the right side. Then there is 17, the famous short par 3 island green where the pros hit wedges and nine irons, but are often befuddled by the breeze or succumb to the pressure. The final hole is a long par 4 with water right and rough and trees on the left.
This year’s championship was marked by the collapse of numerous contenders including third round leader Graham McDowell who, much like Rory McIlroy did in the Masters, shot a 79 in his final round.
Toms was continually referred to by NBC announcers as “44 year old David Toms” to the point one had to wonder if the veteran golfer had changed his name. Regardless of Toms’ age he seemed poised for a win until he let Choi in the side door much to the delight of at least six Tennesseans. They would be Choi’s Bois.
Perhaps not the most important development of the tournament, Choi’s Bois were among the most interesting. Early in the tournament TV cameras spotted six guys in the gallery following Choi and wearing black tee shirts emblazoned with “Choi’s Bois” across the front. When the six guys continued to be spotted curiosity grew and media types began to seek more information on the group.
Turns out Choi had no prior knowledge of his little fan club. The six guys from Nashville explained to one TV reporter that they just like Choi, because he’s a nice guy and putts well.
They explained to a writer that they had been coming to The Players for six years as a group. Last year they were sitting between 16 and 17 and noticed a lot of angry golfers moving past them. Then they noticed Choi who came through smiling and acknowledging the gallery. So the six began to follow Choi the rest of that round and the remainder of the tournament. They noticed that the South Korean had the same happy outgoing demeanor on the course all the time and they decided they were going to be his fans.
Choi speaks very little English and uses an interpreter said, “They showed me a lot of support, a lot of love. For them to come all the way from Tennessee to watch me play? Imagine, I have no relationship with them. This is the first time I’ve ever seen them. For them to fly all the way over just because they like me as a player and to support me the way that they did, I’m very appreciative. It’s really spectacular to see something like that.”
In an interesting role reversal, Choi asked the guys if he could have his picture taken with them. That gesture would seem to confirm what the guys from Tennessee were saying all along, that K.J. is a nice guy and a good guy to root for.