Kevin Na on suspended Korean pro: ‘Three years is ridiculous; he’s depressed’

October 3, 2019

Korean pro Bio Kim was suspended for three years for an obscene gesture the Korean Tour said “damaged the dignity of a golfer with etiquette violation and inappropriate behaviour.”

Kim, 29, flipped off a spectator and slammed his club into the ground when a camera clicked in his backswing during the final round of the DGB Financial Group Volvik Daegu Gyeongbuk Open on Sunday. Kim still won the tournament, but stiff penalties came next. He was fined over $8,000 and suspended for three years, the latter a sanction many believed was much too harsh.

PGA Tour player Kevin Na called the length of the suspension “ridiculous” during a Wednesday press conference at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Na, 36, was born in South Korea before his family moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old.

The first question Na was asked about Kim led to a lengthy and thoughtful response from the three-time PGA Tour winner. Na said he knows Kim very well and they played many practice rounds together when Kim was on the PGA Tour in 2011.

“First of all, I don’t know where to start,” Na said.

“What he did was wrong,” Na continued. “Kind of surprised me. He’s not that kind of person. I talked to him on the phone [on 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.”

Na said he discussed the situation with someone from the PGA Tour to see how the Tour would have handled the incident, called a few people “high up” in Korean society to see how they could help, and he even connected Kim with the PGA Tour to see if this could affect him trying to secure other starts on different tours.

“You’re taking a man’s job for three years,” Na said. “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. Yes, it happened, but three years is — I mean, for what? I mean, at the same time, I also think he should get an opportunity to make things right. Apologize, whether it’s to the fan, to that individual fan, the golf world, Korean media, but I hope — I mean, I’m trying everything I can to help him.”

Na said Kim still sounded shook up when they talked on the phone.

“He’s depressed. I mean, I can hear it in his voice,” Na said. “He sounded just torn. His wife is pregnant. I know his wife is pregnant. I said, You know what? I know you’re going through a rough time. Be good to your wife. I am sure it’s hard for her. Like I said, I’m trying everything I can. Not that I can do much.”

Na, admittedly, could have said much more on the topic.

“I guess I can keep going on,” he said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Na tees off alongside Phil Mickelson and Tony Finau for the first round of the Shriners at 10:10 a.m. ET on Thursday.