No 8 Watch Your Language

By Brian HewittDecember 14, 2008, 5:00 pm
The LPGAs critics ' and they are nasty and legion ' have long insisted that the organization should be renamed, The Gang That Couldnt Shoot Straight Unless It Was Aiming At Its Own Foot.
 
This is largely unfair, especially if you consider all the progress the LPGA made under the stewardship of former commissioner Ty Votaw, now a senior executive at the PGA Tour.
 
But in August, Votaws successor, the controversial Carolyn Bivens, stirred up a hornets nest of negative publicity for womens golf when it was reported that she had plans to threaten fines and suspensions for foreign players who couldnt pass minimum English language requirements.
 
Worse, Bivens reportedly announced these plans in a meeting to which only players of Asian descent were invited.
 
Bivens was coming from a marketing standpoint. And, to be fair, there has long been an understanding that the LPGA, struggling to keep sponsors in certain cities, needed to make all of its players more fan friendly. At the very least, the LPGA needed to make its players capable of communicating with well-heeled pro-am partners. Its a language fluency that most agree is the price of doing business on the golf course in the womens game.
 
But the threats came off as being heavy-handed. And the blowback from the Asian-American community in the United States was fast and furious.
 
It should be noted here that Asian women won three of the LPGAs four majors in 2008. Lorena Ochoa, a Mexican, captured the other one. There are 121 international players from 26 countries, including 45 from South Korea on the LPGA. Many of them have minimal English language skills.
 
Don Shin, whose Global Sports Management is based in Orlando, Fla., represents South Korean LPGA players Meena Lee, Sarah Lee and four other Asian women. He told GolfChannel.com that the LPGAs move was appropriate. But he said none of his players were initially told what the oral evaluation would entail.
 
Shin made several very good points at the time. He said he wasnt worried about any of his players passing a test. And, he added, most of them have been receiving English tutoring, two months out of the year, since as early as 2005.
 
But he pointed out that Korean, like Japanese or Chinese, is very different than English ' much more so than, say, Spanish, Italian or French. And, he said, any Asian women who fail an oral evaluation should be given a proper amount of time to receive more help with the English language.
 
Bivens responded by saying the LPGA wouldnt begin considering suspensions until the end of 2009.
 
The goal was to eradicate this stereotype: Four cigar-chomping, middle-aged American men say hello to a 22-year-old South Korean woman who bows at the introduction on the first tee of the Wednesday Pro-Am. There are smiles but very few words exchanged over the next five-and-a-half hours after which the men scratch their heads and wonder why their foursome paid $10,000 for little or no conversation.
 
Who was to blame is a matter of opinion. But an imposition of oral evaluations carried with it no small whiff of infringement upon civil liberties.
 
By September, Bivens had changed her tune. Under increasing criticism, the Tour backed off plans to suspend players.
 
'We have decided to rescind those penalty provisions,' Bivens said in a statement. 'After hearing the concerns, we believe there are other ways to achieve our shared objective of supporting and enhancing the business opportunities for every tour player.'
 
By October there were signs of progress when Korean-born In-Kyung Kim won the Longs Drug Challenge.
 
Kims victory did not come as a surprise to anybody who noticed that she finished in the top 10 in each of the last two womens majors this year. But the performances that put the most smiles on the bosses back at LPGA headquarters were the one turned in by the 20-year-old Kim in the press room and at the trophy presentation.
 
Kim was the first Korean to win an LPGA event since the storm of controversy accompanied the organizations announcement that it was going to mandate more English language proficiency from its foreign-born players.
 
At her Longs news conference Saturday, Kim made it through without an interpreter and referred to herself self-deprecatingly, but endearingly, as a
Little punk kid. Very American.
 
The word she probably was looking for was underdog. But all the present knew
what she was trying to say. Then Kim revealed that she had been taking English classes two days a week at the University of South Carolina but that she struggled in other parts of the country because the South Carolina accent was so different.
 
Finally, with the sponsors beaming in the background at the presentation of the winners check, she blushed and said, This is like my English class. If they had been handing out grades that Sunday, the consensus is that In-Kyung Kim
would have received an A on the course and an A off the course as well. Rosetta Stone language courses, she said, have also helped.
 
Finally, at the LPGAs season-ending ADT event in late November, Bivens updated her tours progress. Our intention, she said, is to develop a cross-cultural program in addition to a language policy that will be inclusive, and meet the diverse needs of all the members of the LPGA.
 
Bottom line, our primary goal and intent is to do the right thing by our entire membership, our sponsors, our fans and the golf community at large.
 
Getting more specific, Bivens added: What has come out of all of this are offers, in some cases for some pro bono work, from some pretty impressive groups and organizations and were taking them up on it.
 
So were actually going to make this more extensive then wed ever intended to in the very first place. Our goal is to come out of this a year to 18 months from now and have a model program.
 
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.