Kim Bi-o, a South Korean golfer initially banned for a year for making an obscene gesture toward fans at a domestic men's golf tournament last year, has been granted a special pardon and will be eligible to return next month.
The Korea Professional Golfers' Association (KPGA) announced Monday that Kim will be reinstated before the end of his one-year suspension, which began last October. He'll be able to enter the Korean Tour's GS Caltex Maekyung Open, which begins on Aug. 21.
In a statement, the KPGA said it has also reinstated seven other penalized golfers "in order to promote harmony among our members and fuel the growth of the KPGA."
Kim was initially slapped with a three-year suspension on Oct. 1 last year, two days after raising his middle finger in the direction of fans over cell phone noise during the final round of the Korean Tour's DGB Financial Group Volvik Daegu Gyeongbuk Open in Gumi, 260 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The moment was captured on television live.
The incident happened at the 16th tee, where Kim reacted angrily to the sound of a cell phone camera going off on his downswing.
Kim, who was nursing a one-stroke lead, sent his tee shot only about 100 yards. He then turned to his right and flipped the bird, as he slammed down his driver in anger.
Kim went on to win the tournament, which made him the first two-time champion on the Korean Tour in 2019, but the incident at the 16th tee overshadowed his accomplishment.
The KPGA acted swiftly but then reduced the ban to one year on Oct. 23. But the KPGA upheld the previous fine of 10 million won ($8,360) and ordered him to perform 120 hours of community service.
Kim passed the qualifying tournament for the Asian Tour in February this year, but the tour has been on hiatus because of the coronavirus outbreak.
In announcing Kim's reinstatement, the KPGA said it wanted to provide financial relief for the suspended golfers, who haven't been able to make money playing golf anywhere during the pandemic.
Kim earned his PGA Tour card for 2011 through the qualifying tournament but lost it after one season. He spent a couple of seasons on the developmental Web.com Tour (currently Korn Ferry Tour) before returning to the Korean Tour full time in 2014. (Yonhap)