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LPGA Deserves a Chance

by Jeff Skinner

This is a big week in golf. We are still reveling in Tiger’s come from behind victory at Jack’s Memorial Tournament. Phil Mickelson will be in the headlines as he makes his emotional return from his time off to be with Amy. Big John Daly comes back from his PGA suspension and will attract plenty of attention at the St. Jude Classic. Many are already looking forward to the second major of the season at the US Open next week. However we don’t have to wait until next week for a major. We have one this week at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship. The second major of the LPGA season will take place at Bulle Rock in Harve de Grace, Maryland. Needless to say all the top players will be there.

The LPGA is indeed an international tour. The  Top Ten of the LPGA’s money list is populated with golfers from five different countries. Cristie Kerr is the leading money winner and there are two other Americans in the top ten. In-Kyung Kim is second on the list and leads a contingent of four golfers from South Korea. The winners of the LPGA events this year hail from five different countries: US has four wins, South Korea has three wins, Mexico (Lorena) has two wins and Taiwan and Australia has one each. The women of the LPGA come from all over the world. The Official Rolex Rankings has six different countries in the top ten with three golfers from the US and three from South Korea.

Last season Commissioner Carolyn Bivens created much controversy when it was announced that all players would have to be able to speak acceptable English to remain a member of the tour. After much debate the proposal was rescinded, but it proved there were perceived problems on the tour. It was being said that the proliferation of Asian players on the tour, with poor English skills, was hurting the tour. It was difficult to get sponsors and pro-am players to pay the high fees and then have to deal with players that could not speak with the sponsors or their playing partners. The message was sent and many of the ladies on the tour have heeded Bivens wishes. The problem Bivens was trying to address was the language barrier between the Asian players and the US fans. Thirteen of the top twenty players in the Rolex Rankings are from Asia so for the tour to be successful at home something needed to change. There is also an underlying feeling of nationalism among the fans on the tour. With many tours, not just the LPGA, there is a strong appeal for players from the home country. In the US most fans will pull for the players from the US. In England the fans will cheer for the English player and so on. It is a shame if fans don’t give the players from other countries a chance. There are many great players on this tour and many are not from the US. The US fans should give these girls a chance. In the past few weeks there have been some exciting finishes and plenty of great golf. At the Sybase Classic, Ji Young Oh (South Korea) played the ball straight down the middle to win over all the long ball hitters. She was as accommodating as any player could be to every fan, signing every autograph and trying her best to answer each question. At the Corning Classic, Yani Tseng (Taiwan) beat Soo-Yun Kang (South Korea) and a charge by Paula Creamer and was personable, funny and sincere in her remarks. She has no problem with English, but I bet few fans knew that at the time. This past week at the State Farm Classic, In-Kyung Kim, a twenty year old from South Korea, won her second tournament.

These girls are good, they are young and they are going to be around for a long while. It is fine to pull for a player from the US, but to root against a player that is not from the US for that single fact is wrong. Most of these women are great players and are trying very hard to acclimate to the US Tour. The future of the LPGA Tour is overseas and much of the sponsorship money is coming from Asia. There are many interesting personalities on the LPGA Tour from many different countries. The fans should give them a chance. They will not be disappointed.

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3 Comments

  1. I agree with your comments and insights. I think the media could help the situation more by ensuring that there are interesting facts to tell about the girls that are in contention – regardless of their country of origin. They have personalities that need visibility. Sharing more personal information might help generate more support as we get to know the girls. While learning English may not be a requirement, it would sure go a long way to demonstrating they understand the need to build fans here in the US as well as at home.

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