Choi Hye-mi (29, Welcome Savings Bank), who became the first woman to win the LPBA title, shared a funny anecdote about her father cheering her on at the event.
Choi Hye-mi won her first professional title by defeating her ‘Welcome Savings Bank teammate’ Kim Ye-eun with a set score of 4-2 (4-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-5, 6-11, 11-8) in the final (best-of-seven) of the 6th Tour NH Card LPBA Championship for the 2023-2024 season at Kintex PBA Stadium in Goyang City, Gyeonggi-do, on August 8 at 7:30 pm.
Choi, who made her professional billiards debut in the LPBA Open Challenge, which was held for female players at the inauguration of professional billiards in 2019, became the first “former player” to win a professional title.
Kim Ye-eun and Choi Hye-mi were tied 3-2 through six games of the first set. However, Kim swept four points in the seventh to extend her lead to 9-2. Choi Hye-mi pulled within two points with a bank shot, but Kim scored the remaining two points in the 11th to take the first set 11-4 in 19 minutes and 6 seconds.
The second set was tied at 4-4 through nine games before Choi scored a point in the 10th to take an 8-4 lead with a three-point run in the 12th. Choi scored three more in the 15th to make it 11-4. The set was tied 1-1. Choi Hye-mi took the third set 11-5 to level the set. Only two more sets to win the title.
In the fourth set, Choi continued to score in every inning to take a 7-1 lead after seven innings. She went on a 10-1 run in the 12th to reach set point. Kim Ye-eun scored two points in the 12th with a bank shot and then added two more to cut the deficit to 5-10. However, Choi was just one step away from victory in the 13th game as she finished without a mistake to win 11-5 and take the set 3-1.
Pushed to the brink, Kim scored two points in the first game of the fifth set and took an 8-1 lead into the seventh. Choi Hye-mi fought back to 6-9 in the 10th, but Kim scored two consecutive points in the 11th to take an 11-6 lead and a 2-3 set lead.
Down one set to none, Choi Hye-mi seized the initiative in the sixth set, scoring three points in the first inning. However, Kim answered with one point in the first and three in the second to take a 4-3 lead. Choi Hye-mi scored a run in the third to tie the score at 4-4 and then again in the fourth to make it 5-4, but Kim answered back with two runs in the fourth to take a 6-5 lead.
Trailing 7-8 going into the eighth, Choi Hye-mi hit a bank shot for a 9-8 lead. Choi added two more points to take the set 4-2 and her first career win.
At the post-match press conference, ‘Champion’ Choi Hye-mi said, “I still don’t feel like winning. But I won, so it will feel real tomorrow,” she said.
“I had a much better success rate with backflips than sideflips, and I made a lot of mistakes with sideflips. Even though I’m older (than Kim), I knew it would be a tough matchup because she has a lot of experience and a lot of power.”
When asked about the key to her victory, she said, “I thought about playing confidently the most. Otherwise, I would have regretted it. Since it was my first final, I thought I should enjoy it, so I felt less pressure.”
When asked about her father, who was cheering her on from the stands, Choi Hemi said, “When I see him, I get teary-eyed. I didn’t play well in the 스포츠토토 first set, but I was nervous about him cheering for me. I apologized to him, but honestly, I wanted him to be quiet (laughs). He kept quiet from the second set, so I was able to concentrate better,” she said, sharing a funny backstory.
Choi concluded her victory press conference by saying, “I hope the fans remember me as a player who plays a cool style of billiards.”