Top 5: Golfers who have served in the militaryNovember, 2015
Who has seen active service in between a successful career on tour?
1. SANG-MOON BAE
29-year-old Sang-moon Bae has been forced to suspend his PGA Tour career for two years while he returns home to South Korea to undertake national service.
The two-time PGA Tour winner was denied an extension to his overseas travel visa by Korea’s Military Manpower Association, and means he has to give up his dream of representing his country at the 2016 Olympics.
All able-bodied South Korean men are obliged to complete two years of military service between the ages of 18 and 35, as the country remains technically at war with North Korea.
Bae accepted the ruling graciously, apologising to fans for being unable to remain in competition whilst also acknowledging the importance of his duty.
“The court’s ruling today reminded me of the fact I should put my duty as a South Korean citizen ahead of my golfing career,” he said.
“I decided that I can mature further as a golfer by returning home as soon as I can and complete my mandatory military service.”
The South Korean is currently ranked 92nd in the official world rankings. His last tournament was at the Presidents Cup, where he represented the International team led by Jason Day.
2. THONGCHAI JAIDEE
At the age of 19 Thongchai Jaidee joined the Royal Thai Army, deciding a few years later to stay on as a paratrooper.
The seven-time European Tour winner spent more than a decade as a paratrooper, performing solo jumps from up to 12,000 feet.
He took part in more than 60 jumps during his 12 years in the army and credits the military stint for his hugely successful golf career.
“It was very good for me, training hard gave me a lot of things, stronger muscles and a strong mind and that’s what keeps my golf lasting.”
A tip for all aspiring golfers out there?
3. ARNOLD PALMER
Known to golfers around the world as “The King”, between 1951 and 1954 Palmer answered to “recruit” and “yeoman”.
Already an established amateur golfer, the American undertook a three-year stint in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1951-54 following a personal tragedy which made him rethink his priorities.
“I was at Wake Forest for three and a half years and my roommate got killed in an automobile accident and I was pretty distraught over that and decided that I needed to get away,” recalled Palmer in a 2011 interview.
“I joined the Coast Guard.”
Palmer credits his service with helping him gain maturity at a time in his life when he needed some direction.
“The military isn’t just restrictions and military duties. It’s learning and it’s very important that young people have that opportunity to learn and to know themselves a little better and I think the military helps put that in the right perspective.”
Not that it stopped the 62-time PGA Tour winner from his involvement in golf. During basic training in New Jersey he designed and built his first course.
4. SIR HENRY COTTON
During World War II the three-time Open champion did his bit by serving with the Royal Air Force.
He split his time between active duty and fundraising, playing exhibition matches and shows to raise money for the Red Cross, for which he was awarded an MBE.
Cotton’s third and final Open victory came in 1948, after his service in the RAF.
He was later knighted for his hard work during the war, an achievement that gave him as much pride as any golf championship.
5. BOBBY JONES
During WWII, Jones petitioned the commanding officer of his Army Reserve group to allow him to rejoin the service, aged 40.
He served as an officer in the Army Air Corps, landing in Normandy on June 7 1944, the morning after D-Day. He reportedly conducted interrogations of POWs and for two days his unit was under intense fire.
During his service years Jones also permitted the U.S. Army to graze cattle on the grounds at Augusta National Golf Club, which he co-founded in 1933.