When Clare Choi left Chungju City for New Zealand, with husband Paul Chin and their two children for a change in lifestyle in September 2002, she came across countless fellow South Koreans in Auckland urging her to take up golf.
Never having had any lessons, Choi ummed and aahed about it because of the cost of buying equipment but a flatmate, who had a full set of clubs sitting idle in the house, made things easier.
The then 34-year-old had booked a lesson at the Akarana Golf Club but, as luck had it, the club PGA professional — who had got as far as teaching her what the ideal grip was in the first couple of sessions — had decided to ply his trade in Australia.
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That pushed the hairdressing couple to hunt down books on golf and surf the internet.
"In those days there wasn't much in the way of golf on the internet," says Choi who is making her maiden appearance for the Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay team when they tee off in the annual New Zealand Women's Interprovincial teams' matchplay tournament at the Maraenui Golf Club in Napier from tomorrow. The 51-year-old, occasionally reaching out for help from team captain Martha Manaena as intepreter, says she and Chin had scouted around Auckland public golf courses for 10 months for her to play a round once a week before becoming a member at Akarana.
Within five years of settling in the City of Sails, Choi clinched her maiden Akarana senior women's club championship and follow it up with another in 2014.
"I never lacked confidence and always liked the game," says the seven handicapper who will play at No 3 when HBPB tee off against Manawatu/Whanganui at 12.35pm from the No 1 hole, after a bye in the morning.
For a teenager growing up in North Chungcheong province in a city renowned for its annual martial arts festival in October, Choi was starting to turn heads in Auckland.
The schoolgirl — who tumbled and somersaulted at high school and then took up swimming for almost a decade to land a licence in surf life saving — had latently started finding traction with the man-made paradise on foreign soil as a mother.
She claimed the gold medal at the annual Overseas South Korean Championship in Auckland in 2010, on the heels of a bronze the year before.
"Lydia Ko was a guest player one year [at the behest of the South Korean Association in Auckland] so I played alongside her," says Choi, the spectacles failing to hide the joy and pride of such an accomplishment.
"Lydia was 4 under that day and I was 4 over," she says, trying to hide a tinge of embarrassment by covering her mouth with her hands but any amateur will attest that's a great effort against a former world champion.
Choi is mindful HBPB, whose youngest player in the starting five is top seed Tessa McDonald, 24, of Gisborne, will be up against the young guns of the interprovincials this week.
She knows how daunting it can be against the youthful exuberance of the likes of Cecilia Cho, who lives and competes in Australia now. Some teams this week will have players as young as 12 although HBPB reserve Ellen Ball, of Gisborne, is 14.
"I lost to her [Cho] once in matchplay at the 13th hole because I used to play against younger people in the pennants competition."
She, Chin, who works as a retail assistant, and daughter Margaret Shin, 23, settled in Napier from Auckland last year for better health and a more relaxed lifestyle although Margaret will return to the Big Smoke where her brother, Richard Chin, 27, still lives.
Choi made her debut for HBPB in the women's masters team at Nelson in April this year.
She has earned her stripes, claiming the senior women's championship crowns at her home club of Maraenui in the past two years.
No doubt the newbie feels privileged to have made the cut although her 57-year-old hubby, who also is a seven handicapper, is delighted to be around a wife who "is getting famous".
Manaena suspects Choi drives the ball as far as former HBPB top seed Kate Chadwick.
"She's great at sinking long putts but she misses the gimme ones so we make her putt all of them out at training," says the Hastings Golf Club member as Choi laughs.
In her maiden year of captaincy, Manaena says she has big shoes to fill in veteran Janie Field who served for more than a decade.
"Taking over Janie is a privilege so I can only do my best," she says after HBPB finished ninth at the interprovincials in Christchurch last year.
Field, of Napier Golf Club, starts at No 2. Manaena will come in at No 4 while her clubmate, Fiona Ellis, rounds off at No 5 for HBPB who have co-managers in Trish McBride and Sara Deam (also selector).
"We expect to come away better than ninth," says Manaena, mindful it's their backyard where they can turn up any day of the week, "free of charge", to read the lie of the prime real estate.
She emphasises Chadwick, Angela Jones, Jaimie McIvor, Lauree Southerden have all moved on with the nursing careers and Jones also is married and a mother.
"We can only play our game and we have no control over our competitors so I'll be very proud of our team no matter what happens," Manaena says.
• Div 1: Aorangi, Auckland, Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay, Manawatu/Whanganui, Otago, Taranaki, Wellington.
• Div 2: Bay of Plenty, Canterbury, North Harbour, Northland, Tasman, Waikato.
• Rd 1, tomorrow:7.30am: No 1 Taranaki v Aorangi, No 10 Northland v North Harbour.
8.05am: No 1 BOP v Canterbury, No 10 Wellington v Manawatu/Whanganui.
8.40am: No 1 Auckland v Otago.
Byes: HBPB, Tasman, Waikato.
• Rd 2, tomorrow:12pm: No 1 Waikato v North Harbour, No 10 Aorangi v Wellington.
12.35pm: No 1 Tasman v Canterbury, No 10 HBPB v Man/Whang.
1.10pm: No 10 Taranaki v Auckland.
Byes: BOP, Northland, Otago.
• Rd 3, Wednesday:
7.30am: No 1 Aorangi v Man/Whang, No 10 Canterbury v Waikato.
8.05am: No 1 Auckland v HBPB, No 10 BOP v Tasman.
8.40am: No 1 Otago v Taranaki.
Byes: North Harbour, Northland, Wellington.
• Rd 4, Wednesday:
12pm: No 1 Aorangi v Otago, No 10 Northland v Waikato.
12.35pm: No 1 Wellington v HBPB, No 10 North Harbour v Tasman.
1.10pm: No 1 Manawatu Wanganui v Taranaki.
Bye: Auckland, BOP, Canterbury.
• Rd 5, Thursday:
7.30am: No 1 Aorangi v HBPB, No 10 Canterbury v Northland.
8.05am: No 1 North Harbour v BOP, No 10 Wellington v Auckland.
8.40am: Otago v Man/Whang.
Bye: Taranaki, Tasman, Waikato.
• Rd 6, Thursday:
12pm: No 1 Northland v BOP, No 10 Aorangi v Auckland.
12.35pm: No 1 Waikato v Tasman, No 10 Otago v Wellington.
1.10pm: No 1 Taranaki v HBPB.
Bye: Canterbury, Man/Whang, North Harbour.
• Rd 7, Friday:
7.30am: No 1 HBPB v Otago, No 10 Tasman v Northland.
8.05am: No 1 Wellington v Taranaki, No 10 Waikato v BOP.
8.40am: Auckland v Man/Whang, No 10 Canterbury v North Harbour.
• Playoffs, Saturday: Semifinals, final.