May 20, 2024

Most of the world’s best golfers are competing in the Ryder Cup outside Rome this weekend, but PGA Tour members Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim of South Korea captured something just as meaningful.

By helping South Korea win its first team gold medal in 13 years at the Asian Games in China on Sunday, Im and Kim became exempt from a mandatory 21 months of military service before age 35.

Any South Korean athlete who wins an Olympic medal or gold medal at the Asian Games is exempt from the obligation. It was the first year that professionals were eligible to compete in the Asian Games.

“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 coasted to a 25-stroke victory over Thailand for the team gold medal at West Lake International Golf Course in Hangzhou, China. Im won a silver medal by finishing second in the individual competition at 26-under par, one shot behind former Notre Dame player Taichi Kho of China. Kim finished fourth at 23-under.

Kim, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, had another reason to be happy: His wife, Ji Hyun Oh, was 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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