Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The "solution" to the "Korean Invasion?"

In the past, I have stated my opinion that the biggest hurdle facing the LPGA tour is the "Korean Invasion." Basically, the health of any tour in any country is usually dependent upon people from the host country winning "their share" of tournaments or games, whichever applies. In this case, the LPGA Tour is no different. Americans aren't winning enough and the leaderboards are dominated on a regular basis by Korean players.

To me, it all comes down to this: if the LPGA Tour is to even get back to being healthy and relevant in America, Americans are going to have to start winning on a regular basis again. In Men's golf, Tiger Woods has bailed the PGA tour out from the inability of US players to dominate their own tour. It is my belief that one of the main reasons Tiger Woods, even with his problems, still increases the US television ratings so much is because he is a US player. Sadly, though, the LPGA tour doesn't have anyone close to dominating as Tiger did.

Basically, the LPGA tour needs US women to win more, whether it is from one dominant player, such as Michelle Wie, or more likely Lexi Thompson in a few years, from improvement of multiple players, or from an influx of talented young players.

I have stated previously that I think the Korean golfers are outworking the US golfers, and it would be easy to stereotype American golfers as spoiled brats who would rather go to the mall than the practice range. This may be partially true, becuase economics currently seem to determine which juniors have more access to teaching, playing, and practice time. Rather than make a blanket indictment of American golfers, though, I would ask a question:

For every player like Paula Creamer, whose parents made a lot of sacrifices so that she could become the golfer she currently is, how many talented kids are there whose parents having no time or money left to sacrifice because they are too busy putting food on their table and a roof over their heads?

To me, the only way for the US to once again dominate its own tours, both male and female, is for a major overhaul of what currently serves as a "development program." At this point, the financial costs of developing a golfer are so steep that they automatically disqualify a large percentage of the population. Worse yet, that portion of the population is probably that which would be the most motivated to put in the work neccessary to become an elite player: those who would see golf as a way to break free of economic hardship. Tiger Woods is doing great work with his foundation, but it isn't enough.

I would propose that the USGA, PGA, and LPGA need to work together and make the identification and development of elite junior players its number one proirity for the health of the game in this country. I know that there are many programs out there, but there has to be a way to provide equipment, practice, and coaching for those who possess the potential to be the best of the best but lack the financial means to fulfill that potential.

Maybe, since those with country club memberships already have the means, it could be done in cooperation with the Public Links Golf Association, but something has to be done to give those who would outwork their competition if given the chance a chance to do just that.

There are a lot of very intelligent and capable people in golf who could make this happen. Sadly, though, it doesn't appear to be a priority. Instead, many would rather sit on their hands and do nothing but complain about the Koreans. Once again, we are all built from the same cloth. If people from one country can do it, people from any country can do it by using the same methodology. All it takes is resources, direction, and motivation. The US has the resources to help develop a greater number of talented and motivated players. The question is whether or not the US has the motivation to provide the direction.

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