PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Sang-Moon Bae isn’t your typical PGA Tour rookie.
He isn’t your typical first-time entrant at The Players Championship, either.
For starters, he may have to take a forced break in his golf career to serve in the military.
At 25, Bae has yet to meet his military service obligations in his native South Korea. Men become eligible for service at 21, but the duty can be pushed back until 31, according to his management team.
Basically, Bae said, he must win a major championship or a medal in the Olympics to gain an exemption from serving in the military. Military service is a quite serious responsibility in his homeland and exemptions are difficult to come by.
Bae also is set apart from his fellow rookies in that he has won 11 times internationally. He nearly won his first PGA Tour event in March, falling in the playoff that Luke Donald won at Transitions. Bae was the Japan PGA Tour’s leading money winner last season. At No. 35 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he is ranked higher than Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, Paul Casey, Ryo Ishikawa and fellow countryman Y.E. Yang.
In a bid to fully prepare for the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, Bae set out on a practice round Tuesday with fellow countryman K.J. Choi, the defending champion. Rain, however, washed out their round after two holes.
“I tried to pick his brain a little bit during our short time together,” Bae said. “K.J. said not to be too aggressive.”
Bae said he was thrilled watching Choi win The Players last year on a television at his South Korean home.
“It gave me that much more confidence coming over here,” Bae said.