Aug. 27, 2008
by: Jay Coffin
Its been more than a day since news broke of the LPGAs decision to enforce English proficiency testing. Thats ample time to have weighed most of the angles.
Final conclusion? Good idea, poor execution.
Like many situations, there are positives and negatives. The positives are obvious. The more players can communicate with sponsors, fans and media, the more attractive it will make the LPGA. No one is foolish enough to deny that.
However, just because an international player learns English doesnt mean shell suddenly become more engaging to a pro-am partner. Its not like shell drain a bomb for birdie then break out a knock-knock joke while walking to the next tee box with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Wont happen.
The LPGA went about this wrong. It pulled the wool over the eyes of nearly all its players. The issue of a penalty was never discussed openly amongst the constituency and when the time came to let players know, the tour opted only to speak to the Korean contingent, thus making it seem like a full attack on that specific nationality.
Why not invite all international players? Why not invite ALL players? If this legislation affects the livelihood of the players, the players should not have been blindsided.
Last I checked, the LPGAs No. 1 player is Lorena Ochoa, who is from Mexico. It wasnt too long ago when Ochoa first came to the U.S. to compete at the U.S. Girls Junior and didnt speak much English. Shes obviously made great strides since. But it wouldve been nice to include her in the meetings so ' if nothing else ' she didnt have to hear about issues that affect her tour from the media.
Next beef. Players will have to pass an oral evaluation in late 2009 or could face suspension. What are the testing criteria? The LPGA doesnt know, they havent yet developed the test. Cant imagine that there was an attorney in the world that advised the LPGA it was a good idea to pass such strict legislation without having the complete policy buttoned from top to bottom.
Suspension is too harsh a penalty. An LPGA card is earned from talent, now that status can be taken away for a reason other than talent. Theres something fundamentally wrong with this concept.
An argument can be made that this new regulation could keep some of the worlds best players from coming to the LPGA out of fear theyll lose status if they dont speak enough English. It now becomes a viable option for top international players to remain in (or near) their respective homelands and stay comfortable playing on another tour while collecting a paycheck. (Call this the Yuri Fudoh method. Fudoh has cashed millions in her native Japan over the past decade.) Australia, Korea, Japan and Europe all have nice tours that, while not nearly as lucrative as the LPGA, have enough money to sufficiently pay the bills of a top player.
Weve been very pleased with the response and the support that weve got from the players, including our international players, the LPGAs deputy commissioner Libba Galloway told Golf Central Tuesday. Im very optimistic that were going to have positive results out of this.
Perhaps the LPGA will eventually. In the meantime, many facets of this issue remain clear as mud.
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