News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 30, 2008

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

By Jennifer Myers

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.

The organization insists the purpose of its language policy is to help players maximize their earning power and promote the tour at the same time.

From a business point of view, I understand what the LPGA is trying to do, and why it has a right to do it. The LPGA Tour is a product. That product is a combination of a structure, which would be the schedule of tour events, and personnel, which would be the players themselves. Of those, 121 are foreign players from 26 different countries. There are 45 players from South Korea.

The tour travels to many different cities, and reaches many different fans. People buy tickets to come out to see highly talented women play golf. Volunteers in vast quantities are necessary to make a golf tour event go smoothly. These people will come away from their day at the event with a better impression if one or more of the tour members shakes their hand, signs an autograph or talks to the crowd.

The LPGA Tour prides itself in being fan accessible, and it needs to be. There are only so many sponsorship dollars available, and the PGA Tour has the majority of them. In order for the LPGA to compete it needs to display an event where players are relevant, which in this case means ones who the television audience cares to see. If a player can’t speak English well enough to answer questions, it’s very hard to put together an interesting montage to keep those television sets turned on.

The LPGA is in a tough spot. It wants to attract the best players, but if those players happen to be non-English speaking, it puts a damper on the enthusiasm of the fans. The LPGA has to enhance its product and market it to enough sponsors to keep the tour alive.

I don’t know if speaking English is the answer, but it could very possibly help. It might have other side effects also. It could cause even more foreign-born players to scoop up the golf scholarships to colleges, in order to give themselves time to learn the language before they join the tour.

Time will tell what kind of effect this policy will have on the LPGA. Meanwhile, what they really need to do to enhance their tour is to promote golf as a sport to young American girls. If the United States can continue to produce quality young players like Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel, the competition will be great and the American fans will feel a connection too. There are so many sports options available to young girls now, golf is usually pretty far down on the list.

Quote of the Day- “Now I can go out and play golf and have some fun.” – Michael Phelps, U.S. Olympic swimmer, after winning his eighth golf medal at the Beijing Games.

Vigo County Golf Leagues

Ft. Harrison Ladies 9-hole — Low gross: Darby Guglielmetti. Low net (tie): Betty McKee and Dorothy Dwyer. Low putts (tie): Mary Shake and Georgette Arnold. Play of the day (tie): Lucy James and Guglielmetti. Chip-ins: Mary Add Baker, Arnold and Shake.

Mark’s Par Three Men’s Senior — Standings: Midwest Gas 358, Tabco 340, Vigo Bowl 324, Dew Drop Inn 302, Mattingly Collision 295, Sycamore Chevrolet 290, Old National Trust 284, Fuson Cadillac 266. Low gross: Max Fulmer 34. Low net: Bob Artis. Closest to pin: Stan Shimer (7). Longest drive: Max Fulmer (2). Longest putt: Jack Pattison (1).

Rea Park Wednesday Evening Ladies 9-hole — Final standings: Padgett-Snow 37, Newton-Petty 33, Pair-Bedwell 31, Meyer-Clements 30, Swalls-Mozley 29, Mann-Rusk-28, Lanke-Johnson 26, Horrall-Mahalek 25, Cannon-Atterson 23, Honselman-Hiatt 21, Bocard-Luttrell 21, McCord-Ugo 21, Hamilton-Harden 21, Durand-Hyde 18. Low gross: Stephanie Meyer 37. Low net: Stacy Bogard 30. Chip-in: Meyer.

Terre Haute Savings Bank Senior Men — National Division standings: Complete Kitchen and Bath 25 1, Page’s Market No. 1 242, Pizza Hut 222, Lough Bros. 221, Fore Seasons Golf Complex 218, Paitson Bros. 206, SMC 199, T.H. Savings Bank 189. Low gross: Paul Stanley 35. Low net: Merle Stabler 29. American Division standings: VFW No. 972 249, Spring Clean Car Wash 238, Page’s Market No. 2 225, Callahan Funeral Home 223, Poplar Flower Shop 205, Pabst Painting 196, Salt of the Earth 181. Low gross: Darrell Guerin 41. Low net: Dan Scott 32.