Outrage over new LPGA language rule

August 27, 2008 7:41:07 PM PDT
It is a decision that has people arguing in several languages.

The game is now in the midst of an international controversy after the Ladies Professional Golf Association made a ruling about mandatory English.

"What we're doing is making clear to our current and future members the importance of communicating in English with our core audiences: fans, sponsors, media," LPGA deputy commissioner Libba Galloway said.

As the LPGA explains is, every new player must be able to speak conversational English. Established players have two years to learn.

"It's unfortunate," golf course operator Chris Lee said. "What's the message? That to have respect you need to speak in English our way?"

Lee and his family are Korean-American and own a golf complex in Oakland. They are not alone in their sentiments.

"This is an unfair decision, because sports should be played by ability of players, not speaking language," Jeffrey Lee said.

About one-third of the LPGA's 121 foreign players come from South Korea, and they feel singled out by the new rule. While the move is not specifically aimed at the 45 South Koreans players, it is obvious they will be the most affected.

"To me, it's really centered on racism -- we know the Asian players dominate in the LPGA, and it's through their hard work that they are where they are today," golfer Troy Jackson said. "And for them for them to come into this country and [then] ask them to abandon their culture to make a living, I truly think that's sad."

The English proficiency requirement has infuriated California's large Korean-American community so much that Assemplywoman Mary Hayashi wants to looks into what she can do to stop the policy from applying to tournaments played in California.

"To have something like this, very targeted to a certain group, I think it's going backwards, and I think it hurts those who worked really hard to be part of mainstream sports," Hayashi said.

College golfer Jessica Yam aspires to be as good as the Korean players. She suggests the LPGA may be trying to weed out the best players to make room for more Americans to win.

"They're [Korean golfers] playing very well," Yam said. I don't think Americans are very happy about that; to know they're [Korean golfers] in the top 10 all the time and winning first, second and third places."

But the LPGA insists the English requirement is in the best interest of the sport.

"In the LPGA business, our lifeblood is our pro-ams, where we have amateur sponsors and their clients, customers, play with LPGA players," Galloway said. "It's important those sponsors have good interactions with players; also, it's important for a player to be able to do media in English."


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