NORTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) - British Open champion Padraig Harrington expressed astonishment on Wednesday after hearing that the women’s LPGA Tour will require its players to speak English from 2009.
There are 121 international players from 26 countries on the U.S.-based women’s tour, including 45 from South Korea alone.
“It is an amazing statement,” Irishman Harrington told reporters ahead of this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship.
“The person that brought it to my attention did ask: ‘Does that mean if you’re mute you can’t play golf on the LPGA Tour?’
“Do you have to pass an exam? Who draws the line about how many words you’ve got to know in English?”
Harrington, who successfully defended his British Open crown last month before winning the U.S. PGA Championship three weeks later, described the plan as a big step.
He added: “Some people are natural talkers and some people aren’t. What if you have a person who genuinely struggles with learning a new language, they have a learning disability?
“There are people out there who don’t naturally pick up second languages.”
Golfweek magazine reported that from 2009 all players who have been on the LPGA Tour for two years must pass an oral English test. Failure would result in a suspended membership.
LPGA Deputy Commissioner Libba Galloway said the “measurement time” would be at the end of next year but hoped that the need for suspensions would not arise.
“If it does, we wouldn’t just say: ‘Come back next year’. What we would do is work with them on where they fell short, provide them the resources they need, the tutoring,” she added.
Galloway said the LPGA was in “the sports entertainment business” and that there was a need to interact with fans and sponsors.
South Korean golfer Pak Se-ri supported the stance.
“We agree we should speak some English,” she told Golfweek.
“We play so good overall. When you win, you should give your speech in English.”
Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in New York; editing by Peter Rutherford