SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s Bae Sang-moon arrived home on Wednesday ahead of next week’s Presidents Cup and the golfer told reporters he was keen to play a big role in the event before he downs clubs and picks up a rifle to begin mandatory military service.
The 29-year-old lost a legal battle earlier this year to defer his conscription after he was charged with violating South Korea’s military service regulations.
Bae, who has won twice on the PGA Tour, failed to secure an extension to his overseas travel permit after the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) said he had not spent enough time out of South Korea in 2014 to qualify as an overseas resident.
He was allowed to stay in the United States while his legal challenge against that decision was pending but a court in his home city of Daegu backed the MMA in July and Bae immediately agreed to return and fulfill his obligations.
With the country still technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War, all South Korean men between 18 and 35 must complete two years of military service.
Bae told reporters on Wednesday at Incheon Airport he was sorry for the controversy and was “glad to be back home”.
“I will do my best before joining the military.”
Bae failed to qualify automatically for the biennial United States v Internationals tournament but was one of Nick Price’s two captain’s picks.
The event will be staged in Asia for the first time from Oct. 8-11 at Incheon’s Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, where Bae has already won twice on the domestic tour.
Bae said his season had been overshadowed somewhat by the legal battle.
“There were times when I was suffering so much and couldn’t stay focused,” Yonhap News quoted Bae as saying. “Things didn’t always go the way I wanted.”
After failing to grab an automatic berth on the team, Bae said he was grateful that Price had given him the opportunity to play in front of home fans before he begins a new chapter in the military.
“I thanked him for picking me, and I said I will try not to disappoint him,” Bae added. “I told him I’ll try to be a big part of the International team.”
The United States have won eight of the 10 Presidents Cups played since the biennial competition was established in 1994 and will be heavy favorites for this year’s contest.
The International team, representing the rest of the world minus Europe, have won the event once -- in Melbourne in 1998.
Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Greg Stutchbury