In Kyung Kim, a 20 year-old Korean woman, drained a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the Longs Drug Challenge in Blackhawk, Calif., yesterday.
But the story was not the massive winds or the three-shot victory for this former US Junior Golf Champion. Rather, it was tension over whether she would speak English in her post-tournament interview.
Welcome to Women's Golf, 2008-style. Thanks to the unbelievable stupidity of their Commissioner, Carolyn Bivens, the LPGA has been a public relations disaster ever since she announced in August that they would kick out any players that did not speak English "well enough" to please their sponsors during their Pro-Am tournaments.
After concerns were voiced from their key sponsor, State Farm Insurance, and certain Asian-American lawmakers in California, the LPGA modified its suspension policy with a fine-based one.
The most compelling critique of this policy was voiced by John Paul Newport, who pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, that the LPGA actually has to buy its TV coverage in the US, mainly to package money-making opportunities in Korea.
Some may argue that this is not a policy that targets the Koreans, even though they make up 45 of the tour's 121 International players. However, it was only the Koreans who were assembled on Aug. 21 to be told of this new policy.
Carolyn Bivens then went into scramble mode over the next two weeks to cover her ass. Even though she got Kate Peters, the tournament director of the State Farm Classic, to back her, it was obvious that Kate clammed up when the company's PR department took over.
The singular Carolyn Bivens video on YouTube is an amateurish interview about the State Farm Classic that notably leaves out any mention of Korean players. Something tells me that Carolyn does not root for Kims, Kangs and Lees to beat her golden girls, Creamer and Gulbis.
This myopic attitude is laughable. Why can't the LPGA take a more entrepreneurial approach to their marketing challenges? What corporate sponsor wouldn't want to increase business opportunities in countries like China, India and South Korea?
Sadly, the LPGA succumbs to more of the same elitist groupthink that the sport of golf is trying to disavow.
Korean women golfers seem to have accepted these threats without complaint (they could be cursing in their native tongue, for all we know), but they should also realize that they have the leverage in this situation.
The LPGA has been gifted with a much higher level of competition and talent. But, the future of the game is in Asia. David Stern can understand this. Why not Carolyn Bivens?
Today, there is still no definitive answer from Bivens on exactly what the English policy for players will be in 2009.
No player will have their card removed or face suspension. But, without a strict policy for fine guidelines and enforcement, this issue will not go away.
My recommendation is to sack Bivens immediately and replace her with a competent, multi-cultural leader.
Golf is a global sport and the way to capitalize on its growth is to embrace the opportunities, not to protect your own.
Spinal Tap finally figured out at the end of their movie, that playing arenas in Japan was better than the Holiday Inn in Poughkeepsie. Do we have to turn it up to "11" in order for that message to get through?
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