Korean LPGA Golfers Must Speak English

    August 29, 2008 09:34

    The LPGA Tour will require all players to speak English starting 2009. According to wire reports, the LPGA secretariat has decided to suspend members as well as new players for two years if they fail an oral English test.

    There are 121 international players from 26 countries on the LPGA Tour, including 45 players from Korea. Many people may believe the latest measure is targeting the Korean players, considering that many of them have had difficulty speaking English.

    LPGA deputy commissioner Libba Galloway, however, said LPGA is a "global tour and is not targeting any specific player or country."

    Korean players seemed unconcerned, saying this was not totally unexpected. Ji Eun-hee, who won the Wegmans LPGA in June, said, "At the time, I spoke Korean in the interview. I experienced pricks of conscience as I felt if the latest decision targets me. I'll pay more attention to improving my English."

    (From left) Park Se-ri, Kim Mi-hyun, Grace Park and Ji Eun-hee.

    Before the start of Round 1 of the High1 Cup SBS Charity Ladies Open held on Thursday, Chung Il-mi, the oldest Korean player, said, "The prevailing atmosphere among Korean golfers is that they should accept the LPGA's decision and make more of an effort."

    How proficient is their English? First-generation golfers such as Pak Se-ri and Kim Mi-hyun, who blazed the trail to the LPGA Tour, have no problem because they learned English for survival. Grace Park, Park In-bee, and Gloria Park, who learned to play golf in the U.S. and Australia when they were young, can speak English almost as fluently as native speakers.

    Some players who left Korea for the U.S. only four or five years ago do have problems speaking English. They have played on the LPGA Tour in a favorable atmosphere created by the first-generation Korean golfers and had no big problems because the LPGA even employed Korean staff for their convenience.

    But the LPGA's decision has fueled charges of discrimination even in the U.S. Golf.com, a website that shares news stories with Sports Illustrated, points to a human rights bill that bans discrimination for reasons of race, skin color, nationality and religion.

    In an interview with Reuters, Padraig Harrington, the Irish-born third-ranking player in the world said, "Does that mean if you’re mute you can’t play golf on the LPGA tour?"

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