LPGA to Demand English Proficiency

Beth Ann Baldry, Golfweek, August 25, 2008

For the past several years, the LPGA has impressed upon its membership the importance of communicating effectively in English. As the game’s dominance shifts to the East, the LPGA has strengthened its stance. Learning English no longer is a tour suggestion; it’s a requirement.

At a mandatory South Korean player meeting Aug. 20 at the Safeway Classic, the tour informed its largest international contingent that beginning in 2009, all players who have been on tour for two years must pass an oral evaluation of their English skills. Failure would result in a suspended membership.

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Hilary Lunke, president of the Player Executive Committee, said much of this initiative stems from the importance of being able to entertain pro-am partners. Players already are fined if the LPGA receives complaints from their pro-am partners. Now the tour is taking it one step further.

“The bottom line is, we don’t have a job if we don’t entertain,” Lunke said. “In my mind, that’s as big a part of the job as shooting under par.”

Korean players were informed of the rule Aug. 20 by LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens yet not given any written explanation. The tour told its membership several years ago to expect an English evaluation but didn’t stipulate any penalties.

Every Korean player who spoke with Golfweek here was under the impression she would lose her tour card if she failed the test rather than face suspension.

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Se Ri Pak was one of many Koreans who supported the tour’s position but favored a fine. The LPGA’s Galloway, however, said an impression must be made that communicating effectively in English is fundamental to the tour’s business.

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Kate Peters, executive director of the LPGA State Farm Classic, supported the news. “This is an American tour. It is important for sponsors to be able to interact with players and have a positive experience.”

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Betsy Clark, LPGA vice president of professional development, said the players will be evaluated by a core team on communication skills such as conversation, survival (i.e. “I’m going to the store.”) and “golfspeak.” Players must be able to conduct interviews and give acceptance speeches without the help of a translator.

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