A Stink Bomb

By John Hawkins Illustrations by Leigh Haeger
September 01, 2008

The LPGA's decision to impose an English-speaking mandate on its foreign players has become the grenade everyone wants to touch. Blog Nation has been serving up a ton of related opinions, many of which castigate commissioner Carolyn Bivens for her sloppy handling of the matter, as if anything this administration does is executed in tidy fashion or is universally well received.

You know what I like about Bivens? Neither do I. A vast majority of the story­lines coming out of women's golf in recent years have come with a built-in negative hook, and not because the media is guilty of piling on. The language-barrier issue is a classic head-vs.-heart argument: what's good for business as opposed to what's morally right. There are a bunch of reasons not to like the LPGA's demand that its players speak English and just one obvious reason to validate the cause—so a bunch of South Korean girls can chat in the pro-am with the guy who owns the local supermarket chain.

On such an occasion earlier this year, one of my bosses was paired with a prominent PGA Tour player who barely spoke a word of English, or any other language, to the group during their five hours together, although English happens to be his native tongue. If the LPGA can afford in-house legal counsel, I'm guessing those lawyers told Bivens to move forward with her xenophobic policy, negative reverberations be damned, and eventually, the Asian contingent would adapt.

And if not, those players will be suspended, a death-sentence-for-jaywalking mentality that would blow my mind if I didn't consider the source. As is her custom, Bivens had little to say on the matter in the days after her policy was revealed. Sometimes, I think the LPGA does something stupid just to remind everyone it still exists.