PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A win at the PGA Tour’s flagship event won’t keep Si Woo Kim from serving his country in the near future.
South Korea requires all able-bodied men to serve a compulsory military service ranging from 21 months (Army or Marines) to 24 months (Air Force). It’s a requirement that pulled Sangmoon Bae from the golf course to the barracks weeks after he advanced to the 2015 Tour Championship and played in the Presidents Cup.
The rule stems from the fact that the nation is still technically at war with North Korea, and it allows for few exceptions. But a few do apply to golfers, namely winning a gold medal for Korea in the Olympics or Asian Games, as Tour pro Whee Kim did in 2010.
Bae won twice on Tour but was ultimately unsuccessful in his attempts to get out of the conscription requirement. According to Kim, his win Sunday at The Players Championship won’t keep the 21-year-old from serving his country at some point.
“I really wish we could have that benefit,” Kim said. “However, regardless of me winning this tournament, I really have to go to the military service, and I’ve already decided that I’m going to go, too. So I’m ready for that.”
Kim said that he has not yet decided when he’ll begin his stint, but he has some time to decide. The rule applies to men between ages 20-30, and it’s an obligation that Bae deferred for several years while establishing himself on Tour.
Bae is expected to return next season, equipped with a one-year hardship exemption. Countryman K.J. Choi, who won the Players in 2011, had already served in the military prior to turning pro.