SEOUL (Reuters) – The burgeoning US PGA Tour career of South Korean golfer Bae Sang-moon appears on hold after the 28-year-old was ordered to return home to complete military service.
Bae, who has won twice on the PGA Tour, had his overseas travel permit extension request rejected by the Military Manpower Administration, the Yonhap news agency reported on Monday, quoting his mother.
The world number 84, who has qualified to compete in the US Masters in April, must return to Korea at the end of January or he could risk criminal charges as his current permit expires in the coming days, his mother added.
All South Korean men between 18 and 35 must complete two years of military service, with the country still technically at war with North Korea after a peace treaty went unsigned following the 1950-53 Korean War.
Sporting success has, though, enabled some athletes to dodge military service with the Korean government waiving the mandatory practice for any athlete who wins Asian Games gold or an Olympic medal.
Bae, who won the Frys.Com Open in October, is the highest ranked South Korean golfer and would be expected to compete at the Rio Games in 2016 when the sport makes its return to the Olympics.
Bae, who has also won tournaments on the Asian, Japan and OneAsia Tours, made his PGA Tour debut in 2012 and was granted US residency two years ago.