Asian Games victory saves Korean duo from mandatory military service

Mark McGowan

Si Woo Kim and Sungjae Im (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Whilst most of the golfing world was focused on Rome and the incredibly exciting Ryder Cup, Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim were playing in something arguably more important and with greater stakes at the Asian Games in China.

All South Koreans must complete a mandatory 21-month military service by the age of 35, and the PGA Tour duo, though both still a ways from nearing 35, were no exception. Not before this weekend, at least, but by helping South Korea win its first team gold medal in 13 years, Im and Kim can now bypass the 21-month requirement instead, just needing to serve two months.

Any South Korean golfer who wins a major title, or an athlete who wins an Olympic medal or gold medal at the Asian Games is exempt from the obligation, and with this being the first year that professionals were allowed compete in the Asian Games, they took their chance and duly delivered.

“I think I should be able to stay focused even more on the PGA Tour,” Im told reporters in China, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I feel like I can have a really long and successful run there. I think this will help me so much mentally.”

Im, Kim and amateurs Jang Yu-bin and Cho Woo-young cruised to a 25-stroke victory over Thailand for the team gold medal at West Lake International Golf Course in Hangzhou, China, with Sungjae taking silver medal honours by finishing second to China’s Taichi Kho in the individual competition at 26-under par, three clear of Kim who finished fourth at 23-under.

For Kim, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, he’s hoping for a double celebration with his wife, Ji Hyun Oh, back in the U.S. expecting their first child.

“She knows how hard I’ve had to work for this,” Kim said. “I can’t wait to go see her. Ever since I married her, only good things have been happening in my career.”

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