Posted by: happyfan08 | January 19, 2010

2009 Awards (7 of 12): Most Controversial Moment

Most Controversial Moment

And the winner Is: Ji Young Oh, round 2, Nabisco

Ji Young Oh

In the afternoon of round 2 at the year’s first Major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the conditions were so windy that the golf course was nigh unplayable.  Yet incredibly, the officials refused to stop play.  Anyone caught up in that maelstrom was essentially removed from contention thanks to that bonehead decision. 

One of the players who suffered the worst was Ji Young Oh.  Ji Young had reached the 18th green and was well in contention at that point, but before she could mark her ball, the wind blew it from its resting place.  It started rolling, eventually ending up in the water.  She was penalized a stroke as a result.  To make matters even worse, when she tried to argue with the official, before she could even say a word, the guy rudely cut her off, saying that he ‘didn’t want to hear any arguments’.  Then, in the worst blow of all, his ruling as to where she should replace her ball was incorrect.  Ji Young wound up shooting a second round 78.  All in all, it was a severely bush league series of decisions, especially considering it happened in a Major. 

Other Nominees:

Michelle Wie stiffs sponsor in pro-am at LotteMart

Every year, we have Michelle Wie to thank for adding another worthy nominee to this category.  She may not have won the Seoulie this year, but her accomplishment was still a doozy.

Michelle Wie and 'friends' in Korea

Wie was invited to participate in this year’s KLPGA Lotte Mart Open.  She was given a hefty appearance fee, as you can imagine.  But rumors began to fly that she was expecting, on top of this, quite a bit of special treatment.  For one thing, she asked to be allowed to have her caddie accompany her during the pro-am.  This is against KLPGA rules, so she was refused.  (The KLPGA reasoning: when they used to allow caddies to accompany players during pro-ams, the players would spend too much time talking to the caddies and ignoring their amateur partners).  Seemingly in response, she bowed out of the pro am entirely, despite the fact she was to play with the CEO of Lotte Mart, the company responsible for inviting her to the event (and giving her the appearance fee) in the first place!  Ouch!

Later on, some more details leaked out.  Apparently, the CEO was considering allowing Wie’s caddie to come along, in flagrant violation of the rules, by allowing him to play in the pro-am grouping as one of the amateurs (!).  Fortunately, that idea was scotched.  Then, they simply removed her from the list of eligible players for the pro-am; if they had not done so, her skipping the pro-am would have required a disqualification.

Michelle Wie at the Lotte Mart

In the end, Wie played terribly, flirting with missing the cut before she rallied to finish tied for 36th.  The winner of the tournament was Hee Kyung Seo, Wie’s playing partner in round one.

Gwladys Nocera is docked two strokes at LET’s China event

Nocera is not a Korean golfer, and this infraction did not occur at a Korean tour event, but because the winner of the event, Bo Mi Suh, was a Korean, we are including this here. 

The controversy happened at the LET’s Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in China.  Top LET star Gwladys Nocera showed up late for her tee time and was docked two penalty strokes.  She stewed the entire round, blaming her two playing partners for calling the infraction on her.  In fact, one of them did do that, and freely confessed, but the other player was an innocent victim of Nocera’s surliness.  Nocera wound up losing the event by one shot to Bo Mi Suh; in other words, the two stroke penalty cost her the trophy.  I’m guessing she won’t be late for a tee time again!

Sarah Oh, LG/Bing NSW Open

Sarah Oh is an up and coming Korean golfer.  At the LG/Bing New South Wales Open, Oh was called for two rules infractions, both by the caddie of one of her playing partners.  Neither was accepted by officials in the end.  Oh went on to win the tournament, but if either infraction had been accepted, she would have lost.

 Biggest Diss

And The Winner Is: Commissioner Carolyn Bivens offends SBS at season opener

Carolyn Bivens had a frankly disastrous run as the Commissioner of the LPGA tour.  One of her most offensive moves happened at the start of this season.  The season opener was the SBS Open, sponsored by Korean television network SBS, who had also been the LPGA’s broadcasting partner in Korea the past several years.  Bivens thought she could get a better deal, however, and negotiated a new agreement with Korean cable Golf channel JGolf.  It’s true that the deal paid a little better than the SBS deal, but it’s also true that JGolf does not have nearly the reach that a major network like SBS has.  How much this will affect the popularity of the LPGA in Korea remains to be seen.

What really pushed this move to the front of this list, however, was how Bivens acted at the tournament itself.  She proudly crowed about the deal when she should have been working to preserve the feelings of SBS.  The CEO of SBS was so annoyed with the way she had handled the negotiations and her behavior in Hawaii that they not only dropped sponsorship of the SBS Open, they immediately signed on to sponsor a PGA event instead.  There will be no Hawaiian LPGA event in 2010; just last year, there were three.

Other Nominees:

The media still has it in for the Korean golfers

Like the rain falling from the sky or the sun setting in the West, if a Korean wins a women’s golf tournament on the LPGA, you can count on some idiot writing an article saying how results like that would lead to the ruination of the tour.  This has been an ongoing problem for years, but we can’t help but mention it in this category year after year.  The best thing to do here is to point out the idiocy of these comments.  OF COURSE the Koreans are not ruining the tour.  This year, the LPGA struggled with a terrible economy and a commissioner who hadn’t the slightest idea of how to sell her tour.  It’s not surprise the tour lost tournaments in that environment.  Interestingly, after Bivens was ousted, Koreans kept winning, but the tour suddenly took an upturn, with several tournaments either being added to the schedule or being re-signed for another year or more.  If it were truly the Koreans that were the problem, wouldn’t the downturn have continued regardless of who was running the ship?

Then, of course, there is all the money the Korean television deal brings in to the tour.  The LPGA itself has admitted that there are several companies interested in sponsoring events in Asia and Korea, even American companies.  And American companies have signed to be sponsors of Korean golfers, realizing the benefit they will get in Asian markets from advertising with these ladies.  As I write this, Dow Chemical has announced just such a deal with Jiyai Shin, and another American company called Enprecis signed a deal in December with Il Mi Chung.

The Koreans have also provided some of the most exciting moments of the year for true golf fans.  Jiyai Shin’s unbelievable run at history, falling short at the last hole of the last tournament of the year, was the most exciting Player of the Year race I can remember.  Her win at the P & G Championship had the makings of a classic, with her, Sun Young Yoo and Angela Stanford all coming up with brilliant shots in the playoff before Shin prevailed.  In Kyung Kim, Na Yeon Choi, Eunjung Yi and MJ Hur all pulled out great last minute victories as well.  Eun Hee Ji gave us a putt for the ages to win the US Women’s Open.

Perhaps the most offensive argument of all is the one several of these articles make that Korean golfers simply cannot appeal to American fans.  This is demonstrably untrue, but many of these articles say it as though it is an indisputable fact (without providing a lick of evidence, natch), which gives you some idea where the writers are really coming from.

So the next time you read one of these articles, please do take it with a gigantic grain of salt before using the newspaper to toilet train your doggie!

Jan Stephenson Still Doesn’t Get It

According to Jan Stephenson, American fans would not be able to embrace a player like Hee Kyung Seo

Jan Stephenson seemed to have a change of heart about her infamous comments of several years ago, when she claimed that Asian players were ruining the LPGA tour.  She has apologized in the press, claiming she never meant what she said to be racial in any way.  Uh, OK, maybe there is some way to misinterpret her use of the word ‘Asian’ as not being racial.  Anyway, I guess that means she thinks she was wrong to say what she did?  Guess again! 

The LPGA has a Legends Tour where older women golfers compete for prizes.  Naturally, the majority (all?) of these players are American or Caucasian.  At one of this year’s events, a reporter asked the players to comment about the recent troubles the LPGA has struggled through.  They were all sad about it, naturally.  But several of them took a shot at the tour, claiming that the Senior tour will benefit because American fans can ‘relate’ to the players on that tour more than those on the big tour.  Among those with such an opinion was noted fan magnet Nancy Scranton, who apparently thinks fans would rather see her than a superstar like Jiyai Shin or Na Yeon Choi.

Naturally, one of the players who could not keep her big mouth shut was Stephenson.  When talking to the reporter, she said of her 2003 anti-Asian comments, “I was in trouble then, but now everybody comes up and pats me on the back and says ‘you saw it coming,’ ” She added, “I was just trying to help. It just came out badly.”  I see; so apparently she is not as apologetic about the comments as she led us to believe, huh?

Anyway, I can only hope this is the last time we have to hear from this increasingly irrelevant individual.

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