June 2, 2019

I’m going to go out on a limb here and disagree with Hank Haney’s suspension from the SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio channel for what some saw as racist comments made about Asian (in this case, Korean) LPGA competitors. Most certainly, comments that culturally stereotype any kind of group based on skin color, race, religion, gender, political affiliation, etc. etc. etc. are and should be seen as improper. But while Haney’s comments could be construed as insensitive in that regard, they not only weren’t racist or sexist, there’s more than a shred of truth in what he was alluding to in his comments. As Golfweek’s Geoff Shackelford writes:

While I agree with and understand the outrage over Haney’s remarks, particularly from players in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open at a terrific venue with strong fan support, I’m conflicted about the characterization and direction of the outrage that quickly turned to some very strong words.

…The flippant comment he made on his satellite radio show, which was in response by a remark from his co-host apparently referring to the number of women named Jeongeun Lee (there are six), is, one that I’ve heard mentioned hundreds of times over the years — including jokingly from Koreans or Korean-Americans — about the number of women with similar sounding names from Asian countries dominating the game. Sometimes it’s a compliment to the incredible depth and the devotion to craft by these women. Sometimes it’s not. This does not make Haney’s comment acceptable when expressed in condescending fashion and his disdain for the state of women’s golf may be tinged with some sexism, but the leap to racism seems like just that: a leap. I’d lean more toward ignorance of the LPGA Tour or international cultures than anything else.

I’m no big fan of Haney (while his book on Tiger Woods was entertaining, it also smacked of someone telling tales out of school and somewhat tawdry – if not unprofessional – given his profession), so it’s not like I feel any big need to defend him here. And while I’m guessing the LPGA’s powers-that-be would never discuss this publicly, anyone who doesn’t think the ladies’ tour doesn’t have somewhat of an image (or at least perception of image) problem with the amount of Asian players dominating their ranks and their leaderboards on a week in / week out basis is deluding themselves.

Look, I enjoy watching ladies golf, always have. To me their games and the way they swing and approach the game is much closer to what amateur golfers would do well to replicate. Unlike the men’s tour, it’s not just a power game of “hit it as far as you can and go make birdie”. But anyone who has been watching the LPGA telecasts on a regular basis for years knows that, apart from a handful of players, many of the Asian players who now dominate the ladies’ tour – most especially the Chinese and Korean players – are (how should I put this?) photogenically boring to both watch and play. Before anyone accuses me of being sexist, I’m not talking about appearances. If you like (or not like) watching Asian chicks play golf that’s your business – me, I could care less if I’m watching Asians or Martians. But, like most, I’m also looking to be entertained and watch players who appear to enjoy what they are doing for a living and bring something more to the telecasts than just executing (or not executing) shots.

And I don’t mean to generalize here, for there are Asian golfers who I do enjoy watching: Inbee Park always seems to have a smile on her face, Pornanong Phatlum sparkles with her ’60s go-go dancer outfits, and the Jutanugarn sisters Ariya and Moriya are always in the mix somehow. But I’ll be frank here: the Chinese and Korean chicks mostly look the same to me in the way they look, dress, and go about their business with a dour, widget-like efficiency that does nothing for me. And the fact may have similar-sounding or identical names only serves to emphasize the point. And there are a lot of them like that, and they dominate the tour from week to week.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them as individuals, but collectively – let’s put it this way – they’re not Lexi Thompson or Michelle Wie. The LPGA needs more players who not only know how to play, but bring personas that help them to stand out over the rest of the competition (one of the reasons why Paula Creamer is so popular), and the influx of Korean and Chinese golfers appears to work against that in a medium that demands such if you’re going to pull in occasional golfers and non-golfers. Haney’s comments could be construed as awkward and culturally insensitive, but they weren’t racist or sexist (sorry Michelle, but you’re way off base here and you should be more careful with your own comments!), but it doesn’t mean he was wrong.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 10:41 | Comments (0)
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