Talk about lazy journalism and editorializing. Christine Brenann of USA Today takes the cake with this half-assed column that backs the LPGA Tour's English communications policy. It doesn't really bother me that she is ok with the policy. I have heard arguments in favor of it that are at least thought out and have some independent analysis. Brennan, though, simply took what Bivens said at face value and now she's a-ok with it.
Basically, she was sold in a 30 minute convo with the Commish. She did little or no independent thought about how critical it is for the LPGA Tour to find out the other barriers to the next level beyond simple English - English so simple that the LPGA wasn't willing to label their requirement even as proficiency (which would be like passing Spanish I and being able to say Yo quiero ir a la biblioteca).
If [all those people criticizing the plan] had done that, it would have been noted that the LPGA and the PGA Tour have almost nothing in common, except for the word golf. While the PGA Tour is swimming in cash, most LPGA events live and die by selling the opportunity to play with the pros in weekly pro-ams. It's an experience unique to golf, akin to an NBA star having to play a basketball game every week with sponsors in different cities or a major league baseball player having to spend hours helping the owner learn the basics of playing shortstop.
This is not an idle exercise for an LPGA player. She is expected to interact, offer advice and tell stories with her foursome, which is filled with sponsors or their customers paying anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 per person for the experience. If those sponsors can't converse with the player (65% of LPGA events are in the USA), the tournament often hears about it. And if the tournament doesn't do something about it, the sponsor might decide not to come back next year, especially in these tough economic times.
This might sound a bit unusual, but it's the way the LPGA stays in business.
"A pro-am is largely responsible for making LPGA events possible," Commissioner Carolyn Bivens said in a phone interview Wednesday. "It is the single largest source of revenue for a tournament. There are no domestic TV rights fees. This is our oxygen. It's that important. As recently as the past two weeks, I've had tournament directors tell me they are getting complaints (about international players who cannot speak enough English to talk to their pro-am partners). We have to be aware of that, because we've had sponsors who say they have had a bad time and might pull out because of it. That's our reality."
There's more to it than that.
Geoff Shackelford has figured out what I mentioned in this space, using this piece as a guide: this is all just a smoke screen. Re-read Bivens' quote about how sponsors may pull out because of English speaking players, or the lack thereof.