When two-time winners on the PGA Tour drop off of the face of the Earth so to speak in the prime of their careers, there’s always some sort of backstory. For Sangmoon Bae, who had risen as high as 26th in the world, his story is one that every able-bodied South Korean man must live.
Despite his fame and income, Bae was forced to serve two years in the South Korean military at the age of 29. Now 31 years old, Bae will return to the PGA Tour with full status thanks to a Family Crisis and Major Medical Exemption.
In 2015, Bae’s last year on Tour, he won the Safeway Open, formerly the Frys.com Open and earned over $2.6 million. During his time in the military, Bae made around $2,000 per year.
The Associated Press had more on Bae’s return to professional golf prior to last week’s Donghae Open, an event co-sanctioned by the Asian and Korean Tours.
Former PGA Tour winner Sangmoon Bae has put his rifle away and replaced it with his golf clubs to play in his first professional tournament in more than two years.
Bae, whose last pro tournament was at the 2015 Presidents Cup in his native South Korea, will begin play Thursday in the Donghae Open. He was discharged from compulsory military service in August.
A three-time Asian Tour winner, Bae spent almost two years as a rifleman in the South Korean army.
Bae, who won the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship in 2013 and the Frys.com Open in 2014, says he’s driving the ball further because of his weight and physical training in the army.
Bae says: “I remembered vividly my first time hitting the golf ball again after about five or six months in the army … every minute was so precious and I really treasured each time when I was out on the golf course or at the driving range. I’m very happy to be back.”
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