Votaw Sorts Out a Brewing Brouhaha


Jonathan Kim is the Korean caddie of LPGA player Young Kim, who is also Korean. They are not related.
But they may as well be. Jonathan Kim serves as Young Kim's instructor and her agent. Young Kim's parents also travel with their daughter. Currently she ranks among the top 50 on the LPGA money list. She has not yet won a professional tournament in America.
All of which is relevant because of the solidly reported story in Golf World last week that exposed allegations leveled against Korean LPGA players. The charges ranged from reports that Korean fathers were illegally coaching their daughters from outside the gallery ropes to one alleged incident in which a Korean father moved his daughter's ball with his foot to a better lie in the rough when he thought no one was looking.
Jonathan Kim says he didn't witness the latter infraction but the word inside the LPGA's Korean community is that the incident did indeed take place in Canada the week after the U.S. Women's Open.
'I don't think this is fair,' Jonathan Kim says.
He doesn't think it's fair because too many Korean players are now being tarred by the same brush. The Golf World story was careful to point out that top Korean players Se Ri Pak, Grace Park and Hee-Won Han were not under suspicion. No Korean player who has won on the LPGA Tour has been charged with anything, said the Golf World story.
But, said Jonathan Kim, 'some times I have seen some problems with the (Korean) fathers.' Part of the problem here is the dominance of the father as an element in the traditional Korean family unity dating back more than 1,000 years and grounded in the principles of Confucianism and Buddhism. Simply put, most Korean players know the rules, but when overbearing fathers push the legal envelope or cross the line, their daughters are fearful of contradicting them.
'I am not happy about this,' Jonathan Kim says.
Nor is the LPGA. Last Tuesday night commissioner Ty Votaw and key members of his senior staff conducted a meeting in Ohio with the 18 Koreans who are members of the LPGA. An interpreter was present to facilitate communication. Many Koreans on the LPGA Tour still struggle with the English language and American customs.
Votaw would not talk about the specifics of the meeting. But, he said, 'It was a dialogue. It was good dialogue.' Votaw added that he wouldn't hesitate to convene more meetings on these issues 'as the need arises.'
Is there is a cheating crisis on the LPGA Tour? Jonathan Kim thinks not. The incidents, he says, are isolated. The problem has more to do with language barriers, generation gaps, cultural differences and the excesses of filial piety. It's a political minefield for Votaw. But it is one he must navigate before it blows up in his face.
The non-Koreans on the LPGA Tour, according to Golf World, are fed up with the abuses by Korean fathers. The innocent Korean players and their families are offended by the stereotyping.
'There are a lot of stories going on out there,' says an exasperated Jonathan Kim. 'I don't want to believe them.'