The Ryder Cup in Italy might have been the golf event that had the world’s attention over the weekend, but don’t for a second think the European team scored the biggest victory in the sport.
Nope, the biggest winners turned out to be South Korean golfers Sungjae Im, Si Woo Kim, Jang Yu-bin and Cho Woo-young.
Im, 28, and Kim, 25, are members of the PGA Tour, while Yu-bin and Woo-young are 21-year-olds who are about to launch professional careers after being amateurs.
The foursome helped South Korea earn a gold medal in golf at the Asian Games in China.
So, why was that such a big deal?
In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required to serve close to two years in the military once they turn 19.
A member of the popular boy band BTS, Jin, started his military service in December. He wasn’t exempt from serving despite the insane worldwide fame of the group.
But the South Korean government has had a couple of ways out for athletes.
One is to medal at the Olympics, but neither Im or Kim could do so in Tokyo two years ago.
The other is to win a gold medal at the Asian Games, which the South Koreans did for the first time in 13 years with a 25-stroke win over second-place Thailand in the four-day event.
Im and Kim, who each have more than $20 million in career earnings, and Yu-bin and Woo-young are now exempt from serving their time in the South Korean military.
It’s a bigger deal for the golfers than other athletes, because it’s difficult to get back into top form in golf after taking extended time off.
Two other South Korean golfers, Seung Yul-Noh and Sang-Moon Bae each won on the PGA Tour have have struggled to find their games again after fulfilling their military obligations.
“This has been the longest four days of my career,” Im told reporters, according to USA Today. “Every hole felt so important, and I knew every shot counted for our team event. I wanted to fight for every shot and do the best I could until the finish.”
No doubt, this was as pressure-packed of a win as possible.