I have alluded before to the problem that the Asian players are having, not so much in assimilating in the LPGA Tour, but in the American culture. While they are machine-like masters on the golf course, they are inscrutable stoics along the rope lines and in television interviews.
Everybody knows this, of course. So I found this article in Golf Week,by Beth Ann Baldry, about a heartfelt, five-page acceptance speech that Yani Tseng delivered at her Player of the Year award ceremony positively refreshing.
The first thing that struck me was the cultural barriers she broke down by directly addressing her parents who were in the audience—after twice being told by her father not to—and telling them that—gasp!—she loved them. Hardly stoic. And neither was the fact that she has mastered enough English to actually go on for five pages. It was, no doubt, from efforts that preceded this:
…Tseng started a monthlong English program the day after the season ended. On Monday, the first Taiwanese player to win the LPGA’s POY award was sitting in an Orlando classroom at 7 a.m., ready to learn. The class is five days per week, three hours per day.
As soon as I read this, I almost shouted, “Hallelujah! They’re actually trying!” The article goes on to detail how some of the other Asian players are faring in their assimilation, including a cute one about a soggy, $284,468 check Na Yeon Choi’s parents found outside her front door. (I wrote about Choi in “Loving Excellence.”)
There’s also an endearing, five-minute video of Tseng taking us on a tour of her Orlando home. The hook? She bought Annika Sorenstam’s old house who now lives just on the other side of the fairway and has issued a standing invitation to Tseng to come ask questions any time. Tseng also explains good-naturedly that her biggest problem is filling Annika’s built-in trophy case. It’s a fun look.
But for as welcome as the story about this effort was, this story I read not an hour later gives a perfect example of just how high the bar is set. It’s from the LPGA Tour’s “For the Love of the Fans,” page. It’s a thank you letter from a grateful, positively gushing father about the way the [English-speaking] players treated his daughter during the course of a day at the LPGA Championship. And there are a ton more just like this one here.
The players and the Tour have bent over backwards for years to build their fan base. It’s very gratifying to see that the Asian players are enthusiastically trying to catch up.