GAINESVILLE, Va. – The PGA Tour policy board approved an adjustment to its regulations on Monday that will now treat mandatory military service similar to the way medical exemptions are handled when it comes to future status.
The issue was prompted by Sangmoon Bae, who must return to South Korea this year to serve in that country’s military for 21 months.
Bae, who is currently exempt through the 2016-17 season, had requested a visa extension from the Military Manpower Administration of South Korea but had been denied. He challenged the ruling in court but it also was denied last week.
South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 years must complete 21 months of military service because their country technically remains at war with North Korea.
The new Tour provision will give commissioner Tim Finchem the discretion to grant an eligibility extension for a “mandatory obligation,” like military service or religious obligation, but would be limited to just a single year exemption regardless of a player’s current status.
“It makes sense given anyone’s situation,” said Jason Bohn, one of four player directors on the policy board who approved the adjustment. “He has no control over the situation he has been put in, and I think looking out for PGA Tour members is a good thing.”
Bae, 29, is currently 30th on the FedEx Cup point list and he told GolfChannel.com on Wednesday that he plans to finish this season.
“I’m trying to finish this season,” said Bae, who is playing his 24th event this week at the Quicken Loans National. “I’m not [playing] in the fall, just this season. I have to do the military service this year so I have to go back to Korea.”
Bae is currently 25th on the International Presidents Cup point list but it is unclear whether he would be able to play the biennial matches, which will be held in South Korea in October.