Monday, September 08, 2008

In any language, LPGA plan was a disaster

After getting blowtorched in the court of public opinion, the LPGA has wisely decided to rescind its plan to penalize players who are not coversant in English by 2009.

The question is whether the tour, which has traveled a rocky road under commissioner Carolyn Bivens, has done serious damage to itself or, as the marketers like to say, its brand.

It certainly didn't help itself.

In the days and weeks after the policy was revealed -- it had not officially gone into effect -- the tour was ripped by the media, some players and, more to the point, some sponsors and advocacy groups.

State Farm Insurance, a long-time supporter of the tour, urged adminstrators to reconsider the idea.

Shortly before Bivens announced the policy would be revised to eliminate the threat of suspensions, there were reports that the Asian Pacific American Legal Center planned to publicly demand the policy be rescinded.

It all swirled into a public relations disaster for a tour that can't afford one.

There is no question the tour has had a problem with so many of its Asian players -- there are approximately 45 Koreans on tour -- not speaking English. It has made pro-ams, where much of the money comes from, awkward, media room sessions difficult and trophy presentations strained.

However, the threat of suspension was too much.

It is not wrong for the tour to encourage its foreign players to learn to speak English and it has had a program in place to help them for three years.

But the heavy-handed policy was a mistake.

Intent on dealing with one problem, the LPGA created an even bigger one that may leave a stain.