Well, not all players. As Baldry puts it, "The tour will rely on its communication staff to help identify players who need to be evaluated. International players who already demonstrate English proficiency will not be approached."
And the English skills to be evaluated?
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.
LPGA members are encouraged to use the support systems already in place such as the Kolon-LPGA Cross-Cultural Professional Development Program and the Rosetta Stone online language program. In addition to helping players grasp the language, the Kolon program also helps bridge cultural differences and focuses on the LPGA’s Five Points of Celebrity: Appearance, Relevance, Approachability, Joy/Passion and Performance.
And the penalty for failing such a test?
Failure would result in a suspended membership.
“Hopefully what we’re talking about is something that will not happen,” said Libba Galloway, the tour’s deputy commissioner, of possible suspensions. “If it does, we wouldn’t just say, ‘Come back next year.’ What we would do is work with them on where they fell short, provide them the resources they need, the tutoring . . . and when we feel like they need to be evaluated again, we would evaluate.”
Galloway said the policy takes effect immediately, but the “measurement time will be at the end of 2009.”
I only have time to make a couple of observations today, but feel free to chime in. I hope the LPGA has explored how the JLPGA, KLPGA, and especially the LET handle related language issues. If mainly monolingual countries like Japan and Korea don't require this kind of proficiency of their international players, I wonder why a multilingual nation like the U.S. needs such a policy. Does the LET have an "official language"? Or do European education systems already do a better job of educating multilingual speakers than here, so every LET winner would be capable of passing an LPGA-style interview exam in any country that hosts an LET event?
Apparently the LPGA policy is being implemented in the name of "the sponsors."
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.”
Perhaps tournament directors and the LPGA could do a better job in seeking out a more diverse array of immigrant and citizen sponsors and pro-am participants (some of whom may actually be fluent in Spanish, Korean, Japanese, etc.).
“This should be a priority in their professional development just the way working on their short game is a priority,” Galloway said. “We just wanted to be clear about our expectations.”
That makes a lot of sense to me. But hey, why stop with English? Why not require all LPGA members to be able to hold a casual conversation and give a short speech in the main language of any nation that hosts an LPGA event? (Hey, maybe there's a reason Michelle Wie is studying Japanese at Stanford!) Put that policy in place and I guarantee we'd see the end of skipping college golf. Perhaps the LPGA could help fundraise for American colleges and universities' modern language departments. (Lord knows, my colleagues could use the support!)
“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.”
But entertain whom? If the goal is to entertain fans around the world, particularly those who may attend a tournament, join in a pro-am, or commit their companies to LPGA sponsorship, then the LPGA's next step is clear.
[Update 1 (2:25 pm): Brent Kelley has a much more considered and thoughtful response than my tongue-in-cheek one. But he does raise similar issues as I do.]
[Update 2 (4:27 pm): And here are Golf Girl's pointed questions. Bob Harig doesn't like the policy.]
[Update 3 (10:33 pm): Brian Hewitt ain't too enthusiastic about the new policy, neither, Huck Finn reported.]
[Update 4 (10:39 pm): Ah, and Jason Wulterkens, in the best Swiftian tradition, offers Commissioner Bivens a few modest proposals.]
[Update 5 (10:44 pm): Meanwhile, Geoff Shackelford pulls no punches (or punchlines). And the ever-polite and balanced Hound Dog argues that the LPGA is barking up the wrong tree.]
[Update 6 (11:34 pm): Michael Walker and Michael Ventre don't like it one bit. Hat tip to willyc and Dennis at the Seoul Sisters.com thread on the new policy.]
[Update 7 (8/27/08, 2:06 am): Rick Tosches is actually pretty funny this time. But this story has officially gone beyond the golfosphere. The new policy is getting even harsher reviews from Eugene Cho, Dewey Hammond, Shaw Moore, John Ochwat, L. Russell Allen.... I give up. Even just googling/blogsearching "LPGA" gives you pages of hits. These were just some of the more interesting ones. See today's post for my own post-spit-take reaction.]