K.J. Choi Lost U.S. Open to Rory McIlroy, But Won in Generosity

South Korea-born K.J. Choi lost the 2011 U.S. Open to Irishman Rory McIlroy this weekend. But off the green he is a champion when it comes to generosity and helping those in need.

Choi won the prestigious Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., last month. That’s not surprising because it was his eighth career victory on the PGA tour. Also not surprising was his decision to donate $200,000 from his award money to help tornado victims in the southeastern part of the United States.

In a recent interview with CNN, Choi shared about how his faith translated into generous giving.

“A lot of people make money but we all live in a society where we need to share.

“When I see people suffering, that hurts me a lot, too,” said Choi.

Damon Hack, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, said that news of Choi’s tornado donation didn’t surprise him.

“He seems to kind of have that good world view to know that there are a lot of things going on bigger than the sport,” CNN quoted Hack as saying.

This is not the first time the 41-year-old Asian golfer has given generously to make a difference in the lives of victims of natural disasters.

Last year, Choi donated $100,000 to Japanese flood victims, and in 2008 he donated $320,000 to the families of victims of a warehouse fire in South Korea.

A member of the Dallas Korean United Methodist Church in Texas, Choi simply says, “I believe in sharing.”

In December 2003, Links Players Magazine interviewed Choi about, among other things, his “financial generosity” and what inspires him to give. He replied: “I first got started in charity work through my religious life.” He went on to share how he heard through his church friends “stories of kids who were less fortunate” than he and how he had wanted to help those kids so they could fulfill their dreams and be a blessing to society.

Out of his desire to help poor children, he founded the K. J. Choi Foundation, which has the objective of helping children realize their dreams.

Choi was first introduced to Christ by his wife when they started dating in 1992. He believes the material blessings God gives him through golf must be shares with others, especially those in need.

“The Lord has been good to me and He has provided a lot for me, so this is my way to return all the things that He has given to me,” Choi said. This belief was the basis of his decision to contribute to the relief efforts for tornado victims.

“While winning the Players Championship was a defining point in my life, there were those who were going through their low point,” Choi said in a statement after his triumph at Ponte Vedra Beach. “I want the victims of the tornadoes to know that their misfortunes will not be ignored.”

Last month, K. J. Choi, or Choi Kyung-ju as he is known in South Korea, announced that he would host his own tournament in his native country.

“I will prepare for this tournament with the idea that sharing is more important than possessing.

“The entire proceeds will go to the K. J. Choi Foundation and will help local communities and underprivileged neighbors.” JoongAng Daily, a South Korean newspaper, reported.

K.J. Choi is Asia’s most successful golfer, having won a total of 18 professional golf tournaments worldwide.