Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oh, How the Times Have Changed! Q-School Edition

Take a look at this post from 3 years ago where I argued that the JLPGA attracted more talent via its Q-School than the LPGA did.

First point:  boy, was I ever right.  New JLPGA members (at the time) Shanshan Feng, Hee Young Park, and Bo-Mee Lee turned out to be world-class talents, Shiho Oyama, Teresa Lu, Soo-Yun Kang, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Kaori Ohe, and Kumiko Kaneda have proven themselves to be among the best on the tour, and several others maintained their membership for years.  Yes, Jessica Korda, Pornanong Phatlum, and Tiffany Joh have had varying degrees of LPGA success, and I still have fairly high hopes for Belen Mozo, Pernilla Lindberg, Dewi Claire Schreefel, and Paola Moreno, but the rest haven't established themselves as LPGA regulars.

Second point:  oh, how the times have changed!  Compare LPGA Q-School and the rookie class of 2014 to the JLPGA's and LET's Q-School results and you'll notice that no prominent or even struggling LPGAers sought out dual membership for 2014 (with Harukyo Nomura giving up her JLPGA membership, there are only 4 dual LPGA-JLPGA members in 2014, Shanshan Feng, Ji-Yai Shin, Momoko Ueda, and Teresa Lu).  The LPGA attracted the KLPGA's Mi Rim Lee, the LET's Lee-Anne Pace, Ashleigh Simon, Maria Hernandez, Line Vedel, Joanna Klatten, and Xiyu Lin, and the ALPG's Kristie Smith.  Even putting aside Lydia Ko and Giulia Molinaro, who got to the LPGA by other means, the LPGA's '14ers are more impressive than either other tour's.  I'd put youngsters Jaye Marie Green, Yueer Cindy Feng, Xiyu Lin, Amy Anderson, Erica Popson, Lindy Duncan, and Natalie Sheary up against the JLPGA's Hikari Fujita and Haruna Taguchi or the LET's Sally Watson, Nobuhle Dalimi, Karolin Lampert, and Nina Muehl with great confidence.  And the caliber of the LPGA's returning players--from Lorie Kane to Silvia Cavalleri to Seon Hwa Lee to Lee-Anne Pace to Ashleigh Simon and beyond--is way higher than either other tour's (although I am excited about Na Zhang's comeback on the JLPGA and happy for LET medalist Caroline Martens, who's bouncing back from serious injuries to both her shoulders earlier this season).

Yup, the LPGA is the place to be once again.  Even though the JLPGA is attracting more KLPGAers, that's its only advantage over the LPGA now.  And you can make an argument that the LET is catching up to the JLPGA in terms of attracting new (but not returning) talent, although that might just mean that it's tougher to break into the JLPGA because it's a stronger tour (in terms of talent and schedule) than the LET.

So congratulations are in order to LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and his leadership team, but even more to the LPGA members who have set such a high standard for the rest of the world and made most of the top players on the planet eager to compete against them.  We're going to have to wait awhile for the likes of Sun-Ju Ahn, Bo-Mee Lee, Ha Na Jang, Hyo Joo Kim, Ha Neul Kim, Ariya Jutanugarn, Rikako Morita, Mamiko Higa, and Charley Hull to make it to the LPGA, but it's hard to doubt that most of them will be coming soon.  I wouldn't have had such confidence about similar-caliber non-LPGAers in 2010.


Will Shakespeare said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

I guess all of that proves that successful sports are as much about management as talent.

And I think it offers a lesson to other sports as well: the LPGA's successful reemergence is a real tribute to Mike Whan's willingness to work with the other tours rather than taking a "them vs us" stance. If everyone else wants to work with you because it benefits them -- and you treat them well -- you eventually become the "big dog" anyway.

The Constructivist said...

Here's a chicken and egg for you all: is the LPGA coming back because the U.S. economy more generally is coming back or is the U.S. economy's comeback actually driven by the hard work and smart choices of organizations like the LPGA?

Mike said...

Maybe it's not one or the other... after all, an economy is basically the sum result of all the decisions made by the participants.

Money doesn't "flow" on its own; people decide where to spend it. And money is an objective reality -- that is, a material entity that exists whether it's spent or not. Whether it sits and does nothing, or gets invested in losing propositions, or stimulates economic growth is totally a function of the decisions made by those who control its movement.

How'd I do, Professor? ;-)

The Constructivist said...

Sweet, and I agree, but where do those decisions come from? There's a judgment (or series of judgments being made), including ones based on a sense of where "the market" or "the economy" (at least the parts relevant to their business, or affecting it) is heading....

The other weird thing is money itself, as its value fluctuates all the time, again based on what?

Makes me wish I took more than one econ course in college!

Everything I learned about money I learned from Terry Pratchett's Making Money. Kidding! Seriously, I've seen arguments that money is a collective fantasy. And don't those economists winning big prizes lately do it by tinkering with the assumptions the economy is driven by rational self-interest?

I mean, players put together schedules and choose tours based on so many factors. It's interesting when so many players who years ago decided they should be members of more than 1 tour are deciding they should stick with 1 nowadays....

Mike said...

Economists may say they understand what makes things happen -- like why the market goes up or down on any given day -- but life is rarely as simple as "The market dropped today because of bad job numbers." And if they can't accurately identify the cause of something as simple as that, how can they plot the course of an entire economy affected by every nation on the globe? If we're going to reference Discworld (and why not?), I suspect Unseen University's machine Hex could give us guidance that's just as useful.

Ultimately I think it just comes down to making sound decisions. The economists who supposedly plot the economy's course merely try to explain why it went where it's already been after the "little people" did the actual spending that sent it there.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. +++ OUT OF CHEESE +++

diane said...

Wow, econ on a golf blog.

As an uneducated Keynsian I don't think the Market has much to do with anything in the real world. Witness the fact that the Market is in record breaking territory most days yet a too large segment of the population is un- or under-employed.

The economy improves when the middle-class expands. Big business is keeping their profits in the bank (or more likely, going out in executive bonuses). The only way left to expand the middle class is government spending on infrastructure. Employees earning good wages at highway re-construction jobs, for example, will spend their disposable income on cars and houses and golf clubs and all the other private sector goods and services that make an economy boom. Private sector companies will need to hire more people at competitive wages to fill customer desires.

What does this have to do with the LPGA Tour? Well, in the good economic times generated in the scenario above more people will play golf and watch Tour golf and purchase goods and services from companies that are likely to sponsor Tour golf.

Need proof? I direct your attention to the 1990s.

Bruce, please feel free to delete this if it violates your terms of service.

The Constructivist said...

Thanks, y'all! I wish it were a sound decision for me right now to purchase new golf clubs, that's for sure! Probably a sounder investment for me to purchase them for my girls, eh? So far, onechan's into skating and basketball and imoto into gymnastics and basketball. Golf seems more an occasion for them to fight with each other than anything else right now! But at least I have basketball!!

Sorry, grading loopiness. I'll be back to normal in 2014.

Thanks again for your thoughts on this. I'm going to come back to this....