Korean golfer Bio Kim, who was suspended for three years by the Korean Tour for an obscene gesture directed at a spectator during the final round of a tournament Sunday, said he will not appeal the suspension or fine and is concerned about his golf future.
Kim, 29, told ESPN’s Michael Collins on Monday that he is «sincerely sorry» for his actions and «takes full responsibility» for what he did in reaction to a spectator’s cellphone camera going off during his backswing.
According to the Korean Tour, Kim has 15 days to appeal his suspension, but the golfer said he would not be doing so because it might suggest his apology is not genuine. He believes a fine and punishment is warranted.
As he played the final round of the DGB Financial Group Volvik Daegu Gyeongbuk Open in South Korean on Sunday, Kim held a 1-shot lead on the 16th tee when he was distracted in his backswing by a spectator taking a photo. His tee shot carried only a short distance.
Kim angrily turned to the crowd, flipped off a spectator and slammed his club to the ground. The incident was captured on live television in Korea. Kim went on to win the tournament, his second victory of the year and fifth overall on the Korean Tour.
«Kim Bi-o damaged the dignity of a golfer with etiquette violation and inappropriate behavior,» the Korean Tour said in a statement.
Kim said he was not notified directly of his suspension by the tour, that he was aware of it and a fine of $8,350 only via news reports.
Kevin Na, a PGA Tour player competing this week in Las Vegas, said he reached out to Kim and believes a three-year suspension is unwarranted.
«What he did was wrong. Kind of surprised me,» Na said. «He’s not that kind of person. I talked to him on the phone (Tuesday). We exchanged some texts. From what I’ve gathered, I guess it wasn’t the first time that happened that day. He was fed up with it.
«Yes, what he did was wrong. Should he be fined? Yes. Three years is ridiculous. … Yes, he was unprofessional and there should be consequences for it, but not take a man’s job away for three years. At the same time, the spectator was disrespecting the game and the player at the same time.»
Na said he spoke with someone on the PGA Tour about the incident and will do what he can to help Kim.
Cellphones are now common at golf tournaments across the world, as spectators use them to check scores and take photos or videos. On the PGA Tour and its various developmental tours, spectators are made aware that they need to put their phones on silent so they will not make noise when photos are taken.
But that is against the law in South Korea. Cellphones there are not made with that feature due to a law that prohibits mobile phone manufacturers to silence the sound made when a photo is taken. The law went into effect in 2013 due to privacy concerns.
This has created issues at golf events in South Korea, including the 2015 Presidents Cup. Kim said that just like on the PGA Tour, spectators are advised to take photos only before a player takes his stance or after the swing is completed. This etiquette is breached often «to put it mildly,» Kim said, and that players are simply expected to deal with it.
To Kim’s knowledge, no action was taken against the spectator.
Kim played on the PGA Tour in 2011, and in 2018 had 19 starts with two top-25 finishes and 11 missed cuts on the Korn Ferry (formerly Web.com) Tour, one of the PGA Tour’s developmental circuits.
He said he was in touch with tour officials to seek clarification on whether he might be able to qualify for various events or accept sponsor invites. For now, the PGA Tour said he is not eligible pending its own review.