Let's embrace golf as global game
I have received countless Twitter and Facebook messages over the last year or so sharing a common thread: “Where are the Americans?”
Pretty easy to ask that question when South Koreans have won four of the last five U.S. Women’s Opens and five of the last eight. Take that a step further: No American has won a major since early 2011 when Stacy Lewis won at the Kraft Nabisco, traditionally the first major of the year. In fact, seven of the last 10 Kraft Nabisco champions have been from overseas.
Here’s my answer: Golf has become a global game. The Americans are
still there ... in fact, Lewis was the No. 1 player in the Rolex World
Rankings from mid-March to mid-April, but the world has caught up.
You can thank Se Ri Pak for changing the face of the LPGA as her entire country watched her win two major championships in a month’s time in 1998. She made golf cool for millions of little girls, including current world No. 1 Inbee Park, who saw Pak carry home that massive amount of hardware and decide she wanted to be like Se Ri.
We as American viewers naturally want to turn on the television or
computer and see our own in contention or at the top of the leaderboard.
That’s easy. We can pronounce their names and we are familiar with their
When players from other countries get into contention or -- gasp -- begin to dominate, we are taken out of our comfort zone. We struggle to
pronounce their names, recognize their faces or share their personal
Nearly every women’s golf fan knows Paula Creamer is known
as the Pink Panther and plays final rounds with a pink golf ball. But how
many can pronounce Jiyai Shin’s name properly, know she is a former No. 1-ranked player in the world, lost her mother in a car accident at age 16 and has produced two vocal albums/CDs, all for charity?
Lots of those same golf fans know Cristie Kerr has done a phenomenal job raising research dollars in the attempt to find a cure for breast cancer and has a world-class wine label that benefits that cause, but how many know that Na Yeon Choi, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open champion, is not only a phenomenal cook but regularly visits children’s hospitals in her native country? Na Yeon was recently so moved by one of these visits that she paid for brain surgery for a child who otherwise would have died because of the family’s economic status.
Those same in-tune golf fans know of Stacy Lewis’ battle
with scoliosis and her efforts to make others aware of the disease, but who
knows that Inbee Park came to the U.S. as a 10 year old, enrolled in an all-
English-speaking school in Las Vegas, was not allowed to speak Korean at
home with her family to make her assimilation to the American culture
easier and absolutely loves snows skiing?
I have been a board member of the PGA of America for the last eight months, tasked with, among other things, growing the game. It is so incredibly easy to slip down the dangerous slope of thinking that golf is just an American, European or English-speaking game when today it is anything but.
This game, now back in the Olympics beginning in 2016 after a 112-year hiatus, is truly world-wide, and it is our duty as those who love the game to look at it and appreciate those who play it so incredibly well, regardless of nationality. As broadcasters we need to better share with you who make the choice to watch our shows, a reason to embrace these players, their stories and come back for more.
I challenge you all, as we enter the three-week swing of the Open Championships in the United Kingdom next month, where the fields will be filled with sometimes challenging and unfamiliar names, to let us show you the golf shots but also familiarize you with why golf’s stories are so great, so personal and so global. The names may not be easy to pronounce or faces quickly recognizable, but best golf shots are always that, whether they come off the face of a clubhead swung by an American, South Korean, Scot, Canadian, Swede, Spaniard,Japanese or anywhere else in between.
Look big and look wide ... because the best of golf is everywhere.