Two Korean golfers to join PGA Tour in ’11

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Two Korean golfers to join PGA Tour in ’11

Two Korean golfers will join the world’s top-flight men’s golf tour next year.

Kim Bi-o and Kang Sung-hoon on Monday earned full-time playing privileges on the PGA Tour for 2011, by virtue of finishing in the top 25 at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, better known as the Q-School.

Kim shot 12-under par over six rounds in the final stage of the Q-School at Crooked Cat golf course in Orlando, Fla. to finish in a five-way tie for 11th place. He recorded a three-over-par 75 in the sixth round for his first over-par round of the final stage.

After a 71 in the sixth round, Kang ended at 11-under par to tie with five others for 16th place. He did not shoot over par in any of his six rounds.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to compete against elite golfers I watched on television,” said Kim.

Said Kang: “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was 10 years old. It all seems unreal at this point.”

Kim and Kang join three Korean natives on the tour - seven-time winner Choi Kyung-ju, better known as K.J. Choi; 2009 PGA Championship winner Yang Yong-eun, or Y.E. Yang; and Charlie Wi, who first got his PGA Tour card in 2005.

Each year, the top 25 players plus ties on the final stage earn PGA Tour cards. This year, the cut line was 9-under par, and 29 players qualified. American veteran Billy Mayfair finished first at 18-under.

Kim, 20, won the Rookie of the Year award and the scoring title on the Korea PGA Tour in 2010, and in August he became the youngest-ever winner of a KPGA event.

Kang, 23, was a member of Korea’s gold-medal-winning golf team at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. He turned pro in 2007 and picked up his first win in April.

In order to maintain their playing privileges, golfers must either record a win or finish inside the top 125 on the money list each season.

The Q-School, regarded as the biggest pressure cooker in golf, is played over four stages, with tournaments held in warm-weather regions in the U.S. through September and December. After a pre-qualifying stage and the first stage, the top 20 plus ties in each of six tournaments make it to the final phase. This year, 153 golfers played in the final stage.

Two other Koreans failed to earn their PGA Tour playing rights. Lee Seung-ho tied for 36th place at 7-under and Bae Sang-moon tied for 50th at 5-under.

They will, however, get to play on another U.S. tour next season.

The next 50 golfers after the top 25 and ties receive cards to the second-tier Nationwide Tour.

Joining them is 20-year-old Danny Lee, a Korean native who is now a New Zealand citizen.

In 2008, Lee won the U.S. Amateur Championship, considered the most prestigious amateur event, and turned professional the following year.

Any golfer who wins three tournaments in one season on the Nationwide Tour earns an immediate promotion to the PGA Tour. Also, the top 25 money winners at the season’s end receive their PGA Tour cards the following season.

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