Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LPGA woes

Contributed by Auggie
Marketing consultant to the LPGA

I’m sure Carolyn Bivens is not a bad person. And I doubt that she is really incompetent. But the former commissioner of the LPGA was "forced" to resign this week amid concerns that the LPGA tour is becoming irrelevant. This is evident is in the recent loss of sponsors and the cancellation of seven tour events. The poor economy certainly has something to do with the financial struggles, but I have another theory. There is a hint in the following list of names, all among the top 20 in last week’s U.S. Open Championship held in Bethlehem, PA: Eun-Hi Jee, Candie Kung, In-Kyung Kim, Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, Kyeong Bae, Hee Young Park, Song-Hee Kim, Ji Yai Shin, Jennifer Song, Sun Ju Ahn, Jimin Kang, Akiko Fukushima, Theresa Lu.

Now, if there was a Asian Women’s Professional Golf Association, does anyone think it would be a popular spectator sport in America? Compared to Soccer maybe, but otherwise I doubt it. Well that’s basically what the LPGA is these days - and to take it a step further its mostly South Korean’s dominating the leaderboard week after week. This takes nothing away from the South Koreans, they just happen to have the best female golfers in the world. This is due in part to the success of Se Ri Pak a few years ago who inspired a legion of young South Korean girls to take up golf. Coupled with government sponsored programs that groom young golfers with potential, you end up with an explosion of talent that is revealing itself today. If women’s golf were an Olympic event there is no doubt that South Korea would run away with the gold, and possibly the Silver too. And there is nothing the LPGA tour can do about it. If you are the best you deserve to play, and win at the highest level. It’s not like youth sports where the abnormally advanced athlete gets moved to a higher division ahead of his/her chronological schedule.

For the record, I believe the tour would be boring if it were dominated by Americans too, although it would probably have higher ratings in the U.S. if my theory is correct. For that matter, it would be boring if dominated by Swedes or Brits or any other common group. The PGA (men) tour continues to thrive and one aspect of the tour that I love is it’s international flavor. There are top golfers from the U.S., Australia, U.K. Scotland, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Canada, Argentina, Venezuela, Sweden and many more countries. Even a Frenchman almost won the British Open a few years ago (Jean Van de Velde) before he realized he was a Frenchman and played the last hole like a . . .um, Frenchman. The LPGA could benefit from such diversity. Now, if the players who were whining the loudest about the commissioner would only stop whining, stop working on their calendar shoots and reality shows, and start working on their golf game, maybe the sport would become a little more interesting. Of course, I could be wrong.

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