LPGA Works To Acclimate Asian Players As Game's Eastern Growth Surges
The influx of Asian golfers joining the LPGA tour in the last 15 years "has transformed the sport, causing athletes and officials to grapple with questions about immigration and race as much as competition," according to Mary Kenney of the N.Y. TIMES. Golfers from Asia have "found profound success" on the tour, as six of the 10 top-ranked players on the Tour are from Asia. The LPGA "offers classes and tutors, conveying to players that their learning English is a priority for the sport’s officials." Japanese golfer Chie Arimura said of her English ability, "It's not scary, but it makes me nervous and uncomfortable." LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan said offering English lessons is "similar to offering a shuttle or recommending a hotel: just another optional service the LPGA provides to make its players more comfortable." Whan added that the golfers "pay for the language courses, but the LPGA pays to ensure that the Indianapolis-based Language Training Center follows the tour." He said that players also "study greetings in languages other than English" to prepare them for tournaments abroad. Whan: "The media tent afterward is sometimes more scary for these women than a 20-foot putt for birdie." Bridgestone Golf Exec VP/Marketing & Sales Dan Murphy, whose company is one of Arimura's major sponsors, said that Bridgestone "generally approved transitions like Arimura's," adding that the sport had "outgrown America and that the increasing diversity was positive." Murphy: "The U.S. market is fairly flat, as a market, as a business. So where is the opportunity for golf to grow? It’s internationally, and Asian countries represent a huge opportunity" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/11).