2017 Rex Hospital Open: Former Pack star Albin Choi getting hot, ready for home cooking

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – Former N.C. State Wolfpack golf standout Albin Choi’s twitter feed indicated his enthusiasm in returning to the Rex Hospital Open that will begin play at TPC Wakefield Plantation on Thursday.

“Always feels like a home game,” his tweet read, tagged with #packpride #gopack alongside it.

Why wouldn’t Choi feel good coming back to familiar surroundings, especially after posting three consecutive rounds in the 60s to finish T5 at the BMW Charity Pro-Am last week.

Before then, only one round under 70, four missed cuts, and a WD highlighted his season on the Web.com Tour to date.

“It’s been a little up and down; it’s gotten off to a slow start, but I feel like these last couple of weeks have been pretty good,” he said following a putting session on Tuesday.

“I’m just excited to be back here.”

They say ‘home is where the heart is’.

Well, the Canadian, hailing from just north of Toronto, made his way down to the City of Oaks via the Canadian golf pipeline that soon retiring Wolfpack head coach Richard Sykes had forged with previous Canuck standouts Brad Revell, Matt Hill, and Mitch Sutton.

Choi’s time in Raleigh made him a lifetime resident in his mind, even if he currently calls Jupiter, Fla. home for now.

“I lived here for five, six years, so I just feel that I’m at home here.”

“Coach Sykes did so much for me and my career,” Choi continued.

“Playing for him at N.C. State, I couldn’t have played for a better coach. He’s taught me so much. He really helped me enjoy the game in college as opposed to trying to make me do things I didn’t want to do. He was always supportive. I had a great college career and a great college experience thanks to Coach Sykes.”

Having played the layout at TPC WP often during his time at State, Choi feels there are no surprises to contend with, just opportunity to succeed.

“I played this morning, the course is in great shape,” he said.

In his third year as a pro, like many others before him and currently, the ‘Path to the PGA Tour’ as the Web.com circuit is dubbed, is not an easy one to traverse.

“I can’t say it’s been everything that I thought it would be,” Choi said.

“It’s been up and down – a lot of hardships. I can’t say it hasn’t been an adventure. It’s been a lot of fun so far. Moving forward, I just think it’s just gonna be the same thing.”

In addition to play on the course, the former Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Champion has contended with adversity off of it, most notably the passing of his mother in 2011.

In a recent PGA Tour article, Choi noted how she’s always on his mind – understandably.

Not the focus of the conversation on Tuesday, he didn’t mention it when asked about his highs and lows, but as golf fans learn more about him, they’ll soon realize that he knows and understands it’s all a part of living the pro life and what comes with it.

He gets it.

The poise he’s approaching it with is part of that learning curve, and one that’ll shorten when he wins at the next level.

“I think it’s about being comfortable on the course, and off the course, I guess,” he said.

“Just tryin’ to do good in all aspects which is tough just because we’re always so busy, we’re always travelin’.

A successful college career didn’t mean that Choi had it easy when he started his pro career.

He didn’t have status on the Web.com Tour, so he cut his teeth on the Mackenzie Tour, formerly PGA Tour – Canada, winning at Q-School there and eventually earned his way up with a win as part of three Top 10 finishes in 2015.

In 2016, he finished his second year as a pro and first on the Web.com Tour sitting  69th on the Money List with three Top 10 finishes.

Looking at his past and current playing trends, and currently sitting 64th as he prepares to tee off at TPC WP, it’s at this point in early June when he apparently heats up.

He hopes to ride the wave of momentum he began recently, and raise the championship crystal trophy on Sunday.

To do so in his home-away-from-home would indeed be special.

“I’ve had my moments here and there, and hopefully something good this week.”

“That’s all you could really ask for. I just feel so comfortable here. I’m really looking forward to having Thursday roll around. A lot of familiar faces here which is nice to see.”

About Peter Koutroumpis 1598 Articles
Peter Koutroumpis is an alumnus of the University of Toronto and Bowling Green State University. Living in the Raleigh area, he has been involved and employed in organized sport and competition as a player, official, teacher, coach, administrator, and volunteer. With more than 20 years of experience in sport event management and programming, as Owner and Managing Editor of the Triangle Sports Network, a set of online sports news sites, he provides a variety of perspectives on the amateur and professional sports landscape including the NCAA, NHL, NBA, PGA, and LPGA, and more.