LPGA to require players to learn English
The world's best female golf players will no longer be required just to be able to drive and chip, but also to speak English, according to a report.
Golfweek reported on its website that the LPGA informed players last week that those on the tour at least two years will have to pass an oral evaluation of their ability to speak English.
Those who fail would have their memberships suspended, though LPGA deputy commissioner Libba Galloway told Golfweek that players would be helped out in such a scenario.
"Hopefully what we’re talking about is something that will not happen," said Galloway. "If it does, we wouldn’t just say, ‘Come back next year.’ What we would do is work with them on where they fell short, provide them the resources they need, the tutoring … and when we feel like they need to be evaluated again, we would evaluate."
Charlottetown's Lori Kane, a 12-year veteran of the LPGA, believes that the communication could stand to improve, but she is opposed to any player having her membership suspended.
"I am of a strong belief that, yes, we need to learn to communicate," said Kane. "But whether or not you can communicate shouldn't determine whether or not you have a card on the LPGA Tour."
The tour has taken on a more international flavour in recent years, particularly from Asia. Of the 121 international players, 45 are from South Korea.
Foreign players have also had a big impact on the tour's overall talent level. Of the top 20 current money earners on tour, 16 were born outside of the United States.
"We are an international tour," said Kane. "The players that are playing the best are international players. And their play alone should help raise the level of the tour, which it is."
Kane did agree however, that the LPGA should do a better job of stressing the importance of communication to its foreign players. She believes that many of the South Koreans, in particular, know more English than they currently feel comfortable speaking in public and could be convinced to try harder.
"There's a group of younger players who all they want to do is play golf," Kane said. "To show emotion and be engaging, they think it may affect their psyche. We know that that's just not the case.
"It can't be that way to continue to sell our product."
The tour has reportedly told players that a minimum proficiency in English would be needed at some point, particularly because of the many obligations and events with the LPGA's corporate sponsors.
"We agree we should speak some English," said Se Ri Pak, who helped blaze the trail for many South Korean pros. "We play so good overall. When you win, you should give your speech in English … Mostly what comes out is nerves. Totally different language in front of camera. You’re excited and not thinking in English."
Evaluations will begin at some point in 2009, the magazine reported.
With files from the Canadian Press