LPGA to non-English speakers: Shh!

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Aug 27, 2008

LPGA to non-English speakers: Shh!

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Aug 27, 2008


KAI RYSSDAL: I had to ask a colleage today to figure this out for me, but here goes. In Korean, Ladies Professional Golf Association sounds something like this: YOH-jah Pro GOAL-puh HYUP-HWAY.

I mention that because a lot of the LPGA’s top players are South Korean. And from now on they’re going to have to learn some English. The LPGA is telling all its players they’re going to be suspended if they can’t pass an oral English exam next year.

Tournaments have a hard time attracting sponsors without English-speaking stars. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer reports those sponsors speak a language everyone understands. It’s called . . . money.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: The LPGA says it’s just trying to help players with their professional development. But the official explanation has been lost in translation.

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: It’s very U.S.-centric and jingoistic.

That’s Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist. He says the LPGA’s new policy is driven by tournament sponsors who only care about the bottom line.

ZIMBALIST: It sends out a message that the LPGA is about packaging a product, and it might or might not have good golfers.

The LPGA could not accommodate an interview request. But Lake Forest College economist Robert Baade says sports is mostly about entertainment these days. He says the LPGA had no choice.

ROBERT BAADE: They’re doing exactly what other professional sports leagues have done, which is to make their sport more attractive to their primary audience.

J.S. Kang is a sports agent who represents six asian golfers. He’s Korean American and sees no discrimination. He says his players understand English will help them. He ticks off ways they can make money on and off the golf course.

J.S. KANG: Endorsements, appearances, to play in pro ams or charity events or corporate events.

Kang says players know they’ll never be the next Tiger Woods, if they don’t get in the swing of things and get comfortable enough with English to be successful product pitchmen.

I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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