A few weeks ago, the LPGA said that it wanted its international members to be able to speak English to some degree of proficiency by the end of 2009 -- or face suspension.The policy was seen as particularly affecting the dozens of South Korean players on the tour (reportedly there are 45 South Koreans out of 121 international LPGA members), many of whom have been event winners.
Since then, the LPGA has been criticized to varying degrees by some of its own members, PGA players, sponsors, civil rights groups and elected officials. While everyone seems to agree that it benefits the tour and the international players themselves to be able to give victory speeches and interviews in English, the idea of penalties took the effort in a bad direction, some say.
Amending its position, the LPGA now says that it wants to continue to encourage and help its international players speak English (with language assistance programs) but without the threat of suspension. As one reader pointed out when this story first broke, players being able to interact in some meaningful way with the amateurs who pay a fair amount of money to play in pro-ams is a significant puzzle piece in the complex financial structure that makes pro golf viable. Overall, players proficient in English would seem to be in a better position to cash in on endorsements. So perhaps, the financial motivations for players to be able to communicate effectively will be a better carrot than the stick of the threat of suspension.