By Larry Fine
BEDMINSTER, New Jersey (Reuters) - Choi Hye-jin finished second at the U.S. Women's Open on Sunday and while the South Korean amateur was unable to collect the $540,000 prize money that went with the runner-up finish the 17-year-old said the experience was worth everything.
Choi, the world number two amateur who has a win on the Korean LPGA Tour and a top-10 finish on the LPGA Tour this season, battled fellow South Korean winner Park Sung-hyun to the wire before finishing two shots back.
"Well, I mean it will be nice if I could get the money but I think my primary goal was to come here and compete so, to me, getting this second place as runner-up actually means more to me and it's a greater honor for me," Choi said through an interpreter.
"This tournament for me, even if I could just come and play, that alone would be an honor, but on top of that ... I get the runner-up and it is unbelievably joyous thing for me."
Last year Choi was the low amateur, finishing 38th at CordeValle in California. Her performance over the four days at Trump National suggests she will flourish as a professional when she makes the switch.
Choi showed her mettle by making birdie at the par-five 15th after a brilliant pitch from deep rough short of the green set up an eight-foot putt.
Then, after the crushing disappointment of dunking her tee shot into the water at the par-three 16th led to double-bogey, Choi made birdie at the last to finish a one-under 71 for a nine-under-par total that put her two clear of world number one Ryu So-yeon and another South Korean, Hur Mi-jung.
Choi fell just short of becoming only the second amateur to win the championship in its 72 years of existence following then 22-year-old Catherine Lacoste of France, who hoisted the trophy 50 years ago.
"I flew all the way from Korea ... and being here is definitely a big honor for me and on top of that, the U.S. president cheered me and clapped for me and that is just an unbelievable honor. So, I was quite touched," she said.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)