“After my first win, I heard the word shiny…”
1539 days. After coming out of a long tunnel of disappointment to win his second professional billiards PBA Tour title, Choi Won-jun (45) took the microphone to share his victory speech, but ended up showing tears.
Choi defeated Birole Wimaz (Welcome Savings Bank-Turkey) with a set score of 4-2 (15-5 14-15 10-15 15-3- 15-9 15-2) in the final of the ‘NHCard Championship’ of the PBA’s sixth tour for the 2023-2024 season, which ended on Friday at the Kintex PBA Stadium in Goyang City, Gyeonggi-do, and took home $100 million in prize money.
He won his first title in the 2019-2020 season, the first year of professional billiards, when he defeated Chung Kyung-seop 4-2 in the final of the third tour (Welcome Savings Bank Championship) on August 30, 2019. However, he endured a dark period over the next four years. His best result on the individual tour was a top-four finish, and he was released by his team, Blue One Resort, ahead of the 2021-2022 season.
According to the Professional Billiards Association, Choi made history by becoming the first player to reach the top of the tour without a team since the 2020-2021 season, when the Team League was launched.
“After I won my first title, I changed cue sponsors, but I didn’t realize how important cues were at the time. I blamed the sponsor, I blamed myself,” Choi said. “Then, after my father passed away last year, I faced reality and put it down. I thought about what I was lacking,” he emphasized.
The reason he never gave up and refined his cue was because he had helpers. He prioritizes senior Uhm Sang-pil, who served as a leader during his Blue One days. “Through him, I was able to find my complementary points,” Choi confessed. “The things he said to me were, ‘Don’t be afraid of the ball, look at the end,’ and ‘Don’t just hit it and leave it to the sky. It meant that I had to design and hit the ball correctly.”
After going back to the basics and mentally preparing himself, Choi became stronger with his synth. “I came back from the bottom for four years,” he says. Not only in the final, but also in the quarterfinals against defending tour champion Choi Sung-won, he showed a different attitude and mentality. After taking a 2-0 lead, Choi dropped the next three sets to fall behind 2-3, and was on the verge of defeat at 9-14 in the sixth set before scoring six straight points to force a full set. He hit five bank shots in the final set to secure an 11-8 victory. Choi said, “When Sung-won was playing against his brother, I felt like I was slowly falling into a swamp. I could definitely feel that he had a different career, and I realized why foreign players struggle,” he laughed.
His wife, Lee Ji-sook, and two daughters, Seo-young (10) and Min-ah (8), have been his strength and support in every situation. “My oldest daughter remembers my first win,” Choi said. Today, when Sung-won won the quarterfinals against his brother, Seo-young cried with emotion,” he says, adding, “She proudly tells her friends at school that her dad is a billiards player.” 아톰카지노
Now that he’s out of his slump, Choi Won-jun is looking up. “I think all the players on the 1st Tour are favorites to win,” he said. I will try harder and become a good player.”