Sub-par English won’t be allowed on LPGA Tour

Sorry. I couldn’t help it. Bad pun, I know, but I just wanted to show off my effective English. Read on.

Apparently being a great golfer is not enough to keep you on the LPGA Tour. Now you need to learn English.

I don’t golf. I don’t hate golf. My husband golfs (or is it “plays golf”?). Some of my best friends’ husbands play golf. I may even learn how to golf someday.

But this isn’t really about golf, but I’m really not sure what it’s about. The LPGA is still working through exact wording of the rules (maybe they are still learning English?), but the gist is that all LPGA Tour members must be able to speak English “effectively” so they can interact with pro-am partners, give media interviews and deliver a winner’s acceptance speech. Currently, there are 45 players from South Korea on tour and 121 international players representing 26 countries. The LPGA’s spin is that the players who are affected by this change understand and agree with it because, after all, it is for their professional development and in their best interests to learn English.

So if it’s that important for professional athletes to learn “effective” English, why hasn’t MLB, the NBA and the PGA jumped on board? There are plenty of professional athletes (and coaches and fans, for that matter) whose comments are peppered with “um”, “er” and “uh” and grammatical errors to make any English teacher cry. Is this really an issue of communication? Why not continue to allow translators? 

The LPGA is feeling a little bit of heat:

“We have been puzzled, if not surprised, by some of the reactions,” said deputy commissioner Libba Galloway, who previously was the LPGA’s top attorney. “We see this as a pro-international move.”

How is making professional women’s golf English-only a “pro-international move”? Can someone please help me understand this line of reasoning?

I read this snippet on about K.J. Choi, a Korean player on the PGA Tour:

A few months ago, Choi had finished a brief interview when a reporter tried to say, “Thank you” in Korean, but told him he forgot the word. Choi laughed and playfully shared this thought with his agent.

“I taught him one word seven years ago and he still doesn’t remember,” he said. “And he expects me to learn his entire language?”

As someone who will never be on the LPGA Tour but speaks fluent English and broken Korean I resonate with Choi. Fluency in English is one of the golden rings children of immigrants must reach for. Many of my Korean-American peers have “lost” their ability to speak Korean because assimilation was the stepping stone to the ultimate goal – the American Dream.

The harsh reality is that even as we achieve some degree of the American Dream, many of us hyphenated Americans are still reminded that we are “other” or outsiders to what is truly American. So while I hope the LPGA Tour revisits this decision, my fear is that even if these golfers perfect their game and work on their English it won’t be enough to make them acceptable to those who are thinking to themselves, “What’s the big deal? You’re in America. Learn English”.

And it’s “Gahm-sah-hahm-nee-dah, you bah-boh.”


1 Comment

  1. Brian Barker August 30, 2008

    I see that the dictatorial imperative that “everyone must speak English” now extends to golf.

    At least the Beijing Olympics appointed an Esperanto translator, and CRI broadcast daily, about the Games, in this language.

    You can check detail on


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