News From Terre Haute, Indiana

On & Off the Course

August 30, 2008

On and Off the Course: LPGA’s new policy might help, but other solutions needed

TERRE HAUTE — In a mandatory meeting on Aug. 20, the Ladies Professional Golf Association announced to its membership that it was adopting a policy that will require all of its members to speak English or face suspension. If a player has been on tour for two years and fails to pass an oral evaluation at the end of 2009, she could be suspended. The rule is effective immediately for new players.

This information leaked to the public sooner that the LPGA had hoped, so it hadn’t finished drafting a written version of the policy. LPGA officials were very naive to think it wouldn’t be leaked, and blind if they didn’t think it would be controversial. Blogs, bulletin boards and web pages are full of people claiming either racism or discrimination, or both.

Some people agree with the LPGA and understand its point of view. The Australian Ladies Professional Golf chief executive Warren Sevil supports the LPGA in its decision saying, “It’s important to note that this whole policy is directed at international members. It’s not about the Korean players. Everyone’s been talking discrimination and it’s all about getting Korean players off the Tour, and really it’s the wrong thing to assume; it’s not about that. It’s important that [non-English-speaking players] are able to communicate with the sponsors, with their playing partners and even with the rules officials.”

Libba Galloway, LPGA deputy commissioner, made this statement: “We’re focusing on the fact that we’re in the sports entertainment business and we have to interact with fans and sponsors. We want to emphasize to our players that they need to be approachable.”

She added that there were very few players who didn’t speak English and said she doubted any suspensions would happen, but emphasized that if they do, the player will not be kicked off the tour. The LPGA will work with them to help them meet the requirement. In 2007 the LPGA established a program that includes tutoring services available to players and has made language-learning software available too.

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    March 12, 2010