Wow, does life come full circle on the LPGA, where only “Her Recklessness,’’ better known as commissioner Carolyn Bivens, can screw up a sure thing.
This week, Golfweek reported that speaking English will be a requirement for LPGA players starting in 2009, and that all of its players who have been a tour member for at least two years must pass an oral evaluation of English skills or else they will be suspended.
Say what? Apparently, the U.S.-based LPGA isn’t international in focus, after all. Apparently it’s “English-speaking-only,’’ which will exclude a small portion of its 45 members from South Korea and a few players from other countries like Japan and China.
Hey, maybe Jan Stephenson was right after all when, five years ago, she said, “This is probably going to get me in trouble, but the Asians are killing our tour. Absolutely killing it.’’
Stephenson was right about one thing: the statement did get her in big trouble, especially with members of the LPGA. But the same things she pointed out then – “their lack of emotion, their refusal to speak English’’ – are basically the same things that the LPGA now wants corrected. (Assuming lack of emotion is synonymous with a lack of words.)
As Stephenson pointed out, “We have two-day pro-ams where people are paying a lot of money to play with us, and (the Asians) say, ‘Hello,’ and ‘Good-Bye.’ Our tour is predominantly international, and the majority of them are Asian. They’ve taken it over.’’
Turns out, ol’ Jan was a soothsayer, as the Asians have taken it over – from a winning and money standpoint. Asian players have won eight out of 25 events this season, including three of the LPGA’s four majors, and own many of the top spots on the 2008 LPGA money list, including 11 of the top 20.
Even though it’s not funny, it is ironic that Stephenson also had this to say in her interview with Golf Magazine in 2003: “If I were commissioner, I would have a quota on international players and that would include a quota on Asian players. . . . Sixty percent of our tour should be American and 40 percent international.’’
OK, so Bivens and the LPGA gang haven’t exactly taken this to that extreme yet, but requiring everybody to speak English is so all about the money that it seems like it has the potential to be golf’s next great lawsuit. And, besides, what about all this LPGA-driven hype about being an international tour? Is it all for show?
Meanwhile, in just a little over three years as commissioner, Bivens has now alienated just about everyone in the game with head-scratching moves like the latest. And, to think, all she had to do was shut up and ride the success of veterans like Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, and rising stars like Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis.
The reality is that the sponsors don’t like Bivens, many of the players live in fear of her, and even her staff has to constantly look over its shoulders or face being her next victim. Bivens’ string of mistakes is too long to list, although it goes without saying that she cleans up almost each and every mess by blaming the media.
Which brings us to this conclusion: If Bivens were a man she would already have been fired, probably after her first year in office. Hey, that’s how long it took former LPGA commissioner Bill Blue to get the boot and all he said was, “My toughest job as LPGA commissioner is trying to get 200 women to agree on something.’’