Sang-Moon Bae will have more on his mind than birdies and bogeys when he competes in next week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The issue of whether the South Korean must serve in the military in his native country remains in flux as the winner of October’s Frys.com Open prepares for the kickoff to the PGA Tour’s 2015 leg of its wraparound season.
With his win last week, Sang-Moon Bae becomes the third Korean player with multiple PGA Tour victories. pic.twitter.com/EGHZIK2Glc— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) October 16, 2014
"Sang-Moon intends to stay in the United States as long as it is lawful to do so and play on the PGA Tour this year, beginning with next week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua," the two-time tour winner’s manager said in a statement on Friday night. "As this is an ongoing legal matter, he will make no additional statements until the issue is resolved."
Bae owns a valid green card and has attorneys working on his behalf in South Korea, according to the manager. All South Korean males between the ages of 18 and 35 must serve in the military for two years, a requirement that could force the 28-year-old golfer to go home by the end of the month and join the armed forces, according to Reuters.
Failure to report could result in criminal charges brought against Bae, whose mother told Yonhap news agency that her son’s overseas travel permit was set to expire at the end of January, said Reuters.
Though Bae’s homeland and North Korea are technically still at war because of an unsigned peace treaty after the Korean War (1950-1953), the Korean government has in the past waived the military obligation for winning athletes at the Asian Games and Olympics. It remained unclear if Bae’s standing as the highest-ranked golfer from his country or his anticipated turn in the Olympics in Rio next year would exempt him from conscription.
Bae earned his way to Hawaii for the Tourney of Champions with his October win at the Frys.