South Korean Park disagrees
THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- South Korean native Grace Park and other women playing at the Samsung World Championship took exception Friday to Jan Stephenson's comments about Asian players and lesbians hurting the LPGA.
"She has her own opinion. I just don't like the fact she picked on Asians and I'm Asian," Park said. "She should come and play with me. I have great emotions. She made her points and if that's how she feels, well. ... Everybody has their own opinions and Jan stated her own and that's what was published."
Stephenson's comments appear in an article in the November edition of "Golf Magazine," due out Tuesday.
"This is probably going to get me in trouble, but the Asians are killing our tour. Absolutely killing it," she told the magazine. "Their lack of emotion, their refusal to speak English when they can speak English. They rarely speak.
"We have two-day pro-ams where people are paying a lot of money to play with us, and they say, 'Hello and goodbye.' Our tour is predominantly international and the majority of them are Asian. They've taken it over."
Annika Sorenstam, the world's No. 1 player, called the comments "pathetic."
"Jan has done a lot for this tour, and I think the tour has done a lot for her," Sorenstam told the Houston Chronicle. "We have a lot to be thankful for out here. It's not just a single person's effort. This tour has grown. I think the LPGA is stronger than ever, and I think as an international member it's important to have international players because it shows this is a world tour.
"I totally disagree with what she said. It's sad that it was said, and I enjoy playing with Se Ri [Pak]. All the Asian players have done a lot for the tour and raised the level of golf, which is why we're here. It's pretty much a pathetic comment."
Four of the top six money winners on the LPGA Tour are Asians, and Koreans have as many wins this year (six) as American players. Take into account the three wins by Taiwan's Candie Kung and Asians have won nine tournaments this year.
"Part of it I think is true, but we have a lot of sponsorships from Asia, like Samsung, but with the language barrier, a few of us have that problem," Kung told the Chronicle. "That's because we're coming from a different country. I'm not worrying about it that much."
Stephenson, who for years has said the LPGA should use sex as a marketing weapon, also said lesbians on the tour are harmful.
"I used to get teased by the girls that I didn't need a woman problem because I always had a man problem," she said. "They never really bothered me, because they knew I was straight. Society is more open now about gay relationships, but it does hurt the tour. It hurts with sponsors. But if you had two gorgeous girls who were gay, I don't think that would hurt."
Fellow Aussie Rachel Teske told the paper that the comments were disappointing because the LPGA has battled those issues for years.
"We have great players out here, and all the girls on tour are playing so much better and so well," she said. "It doesn't matter where you come from. The girls from Korea and Asia actually bring a lot of strength to our tour because diversity is one of our strengths."
Pak, who led the World Championship after Friday's round, was noncommittal, saying she doesn't believe Stephenson meant what she said.
"There are a lot of talented players coming from all different kinds of countries," Pak said. "The LPGA is getting better. I think it's a better thing for the LPGA."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press