May 19, 2015 / 3:13 AM / 2 years ago

Presidents Cup Asian debut will help game grow: Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) - This year's Presidents Cup in Incheon will not only spur the growth of golf in South Korea, it will encourage other Asian nations to bring the tournament to their shores and boost the sport's popularity throughout the region, says KJ Choi.

The Korean, vice captain to International team skipper Nick Price, said the team leadership would leave no stone unturned in their planning for the match-up with the United States from Oct. 8-11 at Incheon's Jack Nicklaus Golf Club.

The United States have won eight of the 10 Presidents Cups played since the biennial competition was established in 1994 and will be heavy favorites for this year's contest, which is the first to be hosted by an Asian country.

"This will bring big changes to golf not just in Korea, but all around Asia," Choi said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The Korean golf community will embrace the tournament and hopefully more young kids will start dreaming about playing golf and reaching the top.

"Also, other countries in Asia will attempt to host the Presidents Cup in the future, which will lead to the elevation of the game in the region."

Choi, who celebrates his 45th birthday on Tuesday, said he had not given up hope of playing on Price's team, but with his world ranking having slipped to number 128 it is likely the 2011 Players Championship winner will act more in a leadership role.

Jay Haas takes over from Fred Couples as skipper of the U.S. team.

The International team, representing the rest of the world minus Europe, have won the event just once -- in Melbourne in 1998.

They should have picked up another win five years later in South Africa but surrendered a three-point lead on the final day to tie.

Choi made his debut at that tournament in 2003, where he beat Justin Leonard in the Sunday singles to steady the ship as the Internationals looked like they might collapse to defeat.

He also played on losing teams in 2011 back at Melbourne and in 2007 in Montreal, where he said the role played by Canadian golfer Mike Weir inspired him to try to bring the tournament to Korea.

"When I went to the Presidents Cup in Canada and witnessed how Mike Weir played such a significant role there, I felt like I had to do something to bring this tournament to Korea," added Choi, who has won eight times on the PGA Tour.

"Shortly after, I started to pursue this goal, and now that The Presidents Cup will be here in October, my focus is firmly set on getting that victory for the International team."

Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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