On the course, 2011 Players Championship winner K.J. Choi displays an unflappable demeanor. But, as the South Korean golfer’s loyal followers proved during their hero’s win Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, fans know there’s more to the the first Asian winner of the PGA Tour’s crown jewel than his steely-eyed determination and oversized putter grip.
Six guys from Nashville, Tenn., comprise “Choi’s Bois,” who have no official relationship with the 41-year-old Choi. They just recognize the respect with which he treats spectators — an appreciation that began at the 2005 Players Championship.
“No matter if he birdied or double-bogeyed, he still paid the same amount of attention to the fans,” Brad Page, the head of Choi’s fan club, told the Palm Beach Post.
“We just kept noticing how nice a guy he is,” Brad’s father, Bobby, said to Golf Channel’s Jason Sobel.
The Page brood, which included Brad’s brother Bo, traveled from Nashville to Sawgrass — some 600 miles — with two other friends to cheer their guy onto victory. Sporting black “Choi’s Bois” t-shirts, the gang caught the attention of NBC Sports’ broadcasters, who gave K.J.’s charges a shout-out during Sunday’s final round.
Choi did the same following his playoff victory over David Toms.
“They showed me a lot of support, a lot of love,” Choi told reporters through an interpreter Sunday night. “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 they way that they did, I’m very appreciative. It’s really spectacular to see something like that.”
True to his fan-friendly nature, Choi hoisted The Players trophy and then invited the Choi Six to pose with him for an inside-the-ropes photo.
“He really appreciated it,” Bobby Page told Sobel. “We’ve had a ball and he’s been very nice to us. We built a lot of memories while we’ve been down here. That’s what it’s all about.”
“He just loves the game and plays it the right way,” Curtis Gribble, one of the Bois, added. “He’s just a joy to watch. When he bogeys a hole, if anybody claps, he acknowledges them – more than any other golfer out here. You can tell he just loves what he’s doing and enjoys the fans. He just knows it’s special to be out here.”
It doesn’t get much better than that for players or fans.