SBD/Issue 245/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Bivens Surprised By Criticism Of LPGA's English-Proficiency Policy

Bivens Says English-Proficiency
Plan Was Not An Official Policy
LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens yesterday said that she was "surprised by nationwide criticism" of the LPGA's plan to suspend players who fail to pass an English language proficiency test, according to the Mobile PRESS-REGISTER. Bivens: "Of course I was (surprised) because it wasn't a policy, it was not ready for prime time, and it spun out of control. ... It was a private conversation, a private meeting. It wasn't intended to be an announcement at that point." The plan has since been rescinded, but Bivens added, "The average fan actually understands the actual intentions of the program better than others do. We get feedback from our players, our tournament directors and our sponsors. Some of the media misunderstood aspects of all this." Bivens noted that the LPGA's sponsors "are 'global sponsors,' and as such the aim of the program and any new policies is an attempt to address international attention and branding for the LPGA" (Mobile PRESS-REGISTER, 9/11). Bivens added, “Without players able to speak a common language, to be able to at least communicate who and what they are, our international players get lost in the media" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 9/10).

PLAYERS REACT: LPGA golfer Se Ri Pak, a South Korea native, yesterday defended the LPGA, saying that learning English "can benefit rising international stars." Pak said that it is "important for young players who don't speak English to learn it so they can discuss their successes on the course." Pak: "They're like hiding behind a shadow because they just can't talk and can't really get attention for it." Golfer Johanna Head: "When a player has won, they should be able to speak good English so they can communicate." Golfer Alena Sharp said that the policy "isn't to 'single out players,' and it was 'silly' for the LPGA to backtrack on it." Sharp: "Something needs to be done. I don't want to lose any more sponsors." But golfer Stacy Lewis said of the original policy, "I don't think it's fair because I think you should be out here based on your play, not what language you speak" (AP, 9/10). Paula Creamer said the penalty for players not learning English was “way too harsh” (Golf Channel, 9/10).

OUT OF BOUNDS: GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Baldry notes the LPGA "calmed the storm by removing the teeth of its policy, but the story is far from over." The tour "has yet to disclose how it will evaluate players' English and what, if any, penalties might be assessed." Baldry: "It's yet another example of poor execution from [Bivens], who has ruffled more than her share of feathers in her three-year tenure" (GOLFWEEK, 9/13 issue). GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak writes the "outrage since the LPGA revealed its plan for the English-proficiency requirement clearly was not what the tour expected, which raises the question: Why not?" Sirak: "There is no question language at times creates problems for the LPGA. But this matter could have been handled on an individual basis. ... Foreign money has played a major role in the LPGA's growth, and part of the price is cultural respect. That's the lesson here" (GOLF WORLD, 9/12 issue).

MOVING ON: In Boston, Jim McCabe writes the LPGA owes golfer Michelle Wie a "huge thank you." Wie in two weeks will attend LPGA Q-School for the first time, which has "led to talk about something other than the 'English proficiency' issue that was a public relations nightmare" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/11).

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