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[Newsmaker] Bae third Korean golfer to win on PGA tour

Bae Sang-moon cemented his status as one of South Korea’s rising golf stars by nabbing his first U.S. PGA Tour title two years after his debut on the tour.

The 26-year-old won the HP Byron Nelson Championship on the PGA Tour in Texas on Sunday. He finished 13-under 267 to hold off 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley in second with 269, and 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel in third with 270.

Bae is the third Korean golfer to win on the PGA Tour, which is the most prestigious men’s golf circuit. The two other Koreans are Choi Kyoung-ju and Yang Yong-eun. 
Bae Sang-moon. (Yonhap News)
Bae Sang-moon. (Yonhap News)

With the Byron Nelson win, Bae is now exempt from qualification for the PGA Tour until 2015, and has earned his place in some prominent events until 2014, including this year’s PGA Championship and next year’s Masters.

Bae earned his playing card through the qualifying tournament known as the Q-School. Before coming to the U.S., he topped the prize money list for two successive years, in 2008 and 2009, on the Korean PGA Tour, and then led the Japan Golf Tour’s money list in 2011.

As an 8-year-old boy who liked baseball, he switched to golf in 1994 at his parents’ recommendation. Eleven years later he made his professional debut.

On the domestic field, he has taken home seven trophies including the 2007 and 2010 SK Telecom championship titles. In 2011, Bae won three tournaments on the Japan Golf Tour. He was selected the 2011 MVP in Japan.

His stock rose higher in 2012 by signing a three-year lavish sponsorship deal with Callaway.

Bae received the spotlight at the 2009 Kolon-Hana Bank Korea Open where he beat then still rising golf star Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.

In March 2012, his first PGA Tour season, Bae left a strong impression for a rookie at the Transitions Championship where he lost the playoff to Luke Donald. Then, in May 2013, he finally captured his first PGA Tour event at the Byron Nelson Championship.

Behind his rapid rise is his 57-year-old mother, Shi Ok-hee, who has supported his golf career with the utmost care since he took up the sport as an elementary school student.

By Chun Sung-woo (swchun@heraldcorp.com)
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