Monday, August 19, 2013

Random Monday: Cup matches, a Legitimate Golf proposal

American caddie in foreground: "WTF girls?"

Anyone happen to watch the big "2 teams, 1 cup" aka "Golf Girls Gone Wild" aka "Solheim Cup" match this weekend?

Charley Hull, left, and Paula: only one of these ladies would escape this match with dignity intact.

I did and it turned out to be pretty compelling stuff, a triumph of guts and team solidarity over hometeam histrionics. The American squad was laid to waste, but in all likelihood the home audience wasn't too broken up about it. Not unlike the Russian spectators in "Rocky IV" a good portion of viewers was probably compelled to switch allegiances midway through the event and begin rooting for the classier European team.

Those who missed out missed out on the debut of the newest sensation in golf in Charley Hull from England. Those who did tune in witnessed a 17-year old hitting clutch shots with Titleist muscleback irons and rolling in big-time putts, all while maintaining a professional and deferential poise that put every one of her opponents to shame. Charley's 5&4 defeat of Paula Creamer in singles was arguably one of the highlights of the pro golf year. Afterwards she provided a charming and highly quotable reply when asked being nervous as a newbie playing in this event: “This is how I always look at golf: I’m not going to die if I hit a bad shot. Just hit it, and find it, and hit it again.”


The Solheim event is nice in that it recreates the spirit of the original Ryder Cup, and it's plain to see how much it means to players on both sides. However--the original Ryder Cup was born in the 1920s out of an organic rivalry between the Old World and New World. Motherland vs. separatists, the forefathers of the game vs. the upstarts, who by that stage were already threatening to claim domination. Even though the situation has changed a lot, there's still a healthy rivalry there today and that's what keeps the Ryder Cup a favorite event.

But let's face it, a women's golf version of this Europe vs. US feud simply does not exist, and that's what keeps this event on the fringes of golf society.

Here is a proposal--another Ryder Cup-style competition, but one based on another real rivalry. I think you know what I'm talking about.

When it comes to women's golf in the 21st century, the USA is the old world and Asia the new. We are the motherland of professional women's golf and Korea in particular is the young upstart that has all but seized control of the LPGA.

In 2005, recognizing the growing stature of Asians in pro golf, the Japanese automaker Lexus stepped up and created a team cup competition that pitted a squad of Asians against 12 of the best of the rest (of the world).

"Hey, where is everybody?"

That event featured a decent back and forth--in the few years before this "Lexus Cup" would fizzle out, the two sides split the four contests.

Now who knows what really ended that event, but it's fairly obvious that there was simply not enough heat to keep it going, to really establish it in the pantheon of pro golf events. Asia versus the world was about as vague and noncommittal a grouping as you could think of. There are no real organic allegiances to speak of in such a grouping and let's face it, it was just too safe, too politically correct, not nearly divisive enough to deliver any real entertainment value.

However in the period of time since the demise of the Lexus Cup, the situation has deepened. Korea is now an even bigger presence at the top of women's golf. A Korean is the dominant #1 and player of the year. Koreans have taken the last three US Women's Opens (aka the one women's golf tournament to rule them all). It seems like with every passing year the women golf pro's of the USA find themselves pushed further into the margins on a tour that is still by and large technically "made in America".

In other words a new opportunity has arisen. A latent rivalry that needs only a little nurturing and shit-stirring to grow into full-blown, I would rather walk on broken glass than lose to you animosity. All in a healthy competitive sense of course.

Because let's face it, the rise of Korean women in golf has not come without friction and ill-will. Just to remind you, back in '08 the previous LPGA commissioner actually attempted to stem the flow of Koreans by proposing to make English-speaking mandatory for all LPGA players.

And more recently the quality play of Koreans has inspired some nutjob radio host/blogger to lose control and spew full-on racist rants denouncing Korean players with "names that sound like the sound you get when you bang pots and pans together" and calling for a cap on the number of Koreans allowed into the LPGA.

Now admittedly these are examples of wacked-out extremists (who both lost their jobs as a result of their airing out their opinions) but I mention them because for better or worse they must represent the views of a sizable portion of us.

Which means audience, which means ratings, which means KA-CHING, which means How can we NOT have this event??? 

Tapping into people's worst xenophobic impulses, provoking inappropriate jingoism and us vs. them hostility has got to be an easy recipe for a ratings bonanza the likes of which women's golf has probably never seen. Surely this would be an event with the potential to draw massive audiences who don't even necessarily care about golf.

The storyline's already written. "This was our game. Until they came along... [cue "Terminator" theme music] ...

How many more people would rally around American women golfers if they were fed this story of them as rank underdogs, brutally oppressed by inscrutable foreigners who are threatening to take their livelihoods from them? The answer is a lot, a lot more people.

South Korea is in a good place economically. Surely it would be no sweat for one of these massive corporations like Samsung, or LG or Hyundai to foot the bill for this golf event. Anyways from a ratings and financial standpoint, this stands to be way more lucrative than the obscure Solheim Cup.

It might require some extra measures, but crowd control shouldn't be a problem.

Of course many will blanch at a such proposal, fearing that such a competition might be construed as racist or needlessly divisive. Frankly I can understand that rationale, but screw that. Yes things could get ugly. Feelings could get hurt, sensibilities offended; hell even general foreign relations might get strained. But again, screw it, because we're talking about big ratings, big audience, increased exposure and who knows, maybe even a lasting financial windfall for the entire golf industry as more ugly Americans are drawn into the game. Hey--dollars are dollars. And in the end, it's only a game. At the conclusion everyone will hug it out like they always do and go back to carrying on with their lives.

"Please don't make me choose."
The only other real problem I can foresee were this event to materialize is that of Michelle Wie. She would likely be a casualty of this war. As a native-born American whose parents are from Korea, poor Michelle would find herself caught squarely in the middle, and bitterly torn between patriotic and ancestral allegiances, she will probably suffer a nervous breakdown. However in any competition this heated, with this much at stake, there is always bound to be some collateral damage. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.


  1. I hear what you're saying, my pot-stirring friend, and I do appreciate the thinly veiled chauvinistic undercurrent in your LPGA musings, but I think in the near future, the Michelle Wies will be the rule, not the exception. Ethnic Koreans born and raised in the U.S. or Australia or wherever that speak perfect English will dilute whatever xenophobic value exists in a Korea vs. America rivalry.

    Then, when you factor in the whole Korean kibun/social harmony thing, it just makes it way too unlikely that some Korean girl is going to spout off some inflammatory trash-talk that the U.S. coach can splatter on a locker room chalkboard.

    I'd say the best bet for your fantasy 'Yellow Fever, 2 teams 1 cup, Azn Grrlz' tourney with any real heat would have to come from China's eventual rise, accompanied with ominous militaristic gong-ringing and the like.

    1. Thanks Duke. Wait, chauvinistic undercurrent? Which one? I can think of at least three.

      In any case your comment speaks to why we must act fast, before these two cultures assimilate any further. The time is now. Maybe someday, in a more evolved and more harmonious future the people will condemn such petty skirmishing. But today, there is still much irrational ill-will and ignorance to be tapped into. Why not have fun with our beefs while we still can in other words.

  2. USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!!!

    Defeat the Yellow Peril before it is too late. Death to … um …kill the … no … par those magic sleeve wearing foreigners into oblivion!!!

    Except maybe Na Yeon Choi, who I kind of like. Oh, and Inbee Park, who is pretty classy. Or I.K. Kim ... never mind.


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