Golfer swaps PGA Tour for military service

South Korea’s two-time PGA Tour winner Bae Sang-Moon will be changing the driving range for a shooting range after losing a court battle to defer his mandatory two-year military service.

Bae, 28, who turned professional in 2004 and won his first US PGA event in 2013, had asked to delay his service to focus on his burgeoning career, but a South Korean district court on Wednesday ruled that he must return home to serve.

Instead of appealing, Bae told the Yonhap news agency that he would “humbly accept” the ruling.

All able-bodied South Korean men aged 18-35 must serve in the military for about two years.

Those between 25 and 35 who have not yet completed their mandatory service require a special permit to stay overseas.

Bae’s permit expired at the end of last year and the court denied his application for an extension.

“I decided that I can mature further as a golfer by returning home as soon as I can and complete my mandatory military service,” he told Yonhap from Oakville, Ontario, where he was preparing for this week’s Canadian Open.

The South Korean district court ruled that a conscript was not allowed to arbitrarily schedule his entry into the military – even if his professional career faces the risk of being disrupted.

South Korea’s armed forces rely heavily on a compulsory military service system, with conscripts – most in their early 20s – accounting for the lion’s share of its 690,000 active personnel.

The country remains technically at war with North Korea as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty, and dodging military service is a serious crime punishable by imprisonment.

Exemptions are very rare, although sports can offer a way out. Athletes winning an Olympic gold medal, for example, are not required to serve.

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