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China, food for thought?
In addition to keeping up with Russia and the U.S.A. with a newly developed missile system, China is also intent upon improving their visibility in the golf world and proving, as Annika Sorenstam said, that the LPGA is becoming a "global tour".
Shanshan Feng, the only Chinese player on the LPGA Tour (so far) believes that, "China can become another Korea for golf. I believe so. Maybe not now but in the future." In order to familiarize China as a golf destination, Feng, in the final round this week, even wore a shirt with a red China map on it.
Go China! The Empire is alive and well. The force is definitely with them.
Don't underestimate the growth of golf in Korea and Japan either, two countries who are hosting the 'triple-play' of this month's venture into Asian territory. This past week, out of a sixty-three player field, two-thirds were of Asian descent with over fifty of the ladies appearing in the upper crust of the LPGA money list.
What does this mean for the LPGA Tour? Juli Inkster contends that, instead of forcing the girls to learn English (as was the intent of Ms.Bivens) and suspending them if they did not, perhaps a more subtle approach is needed.
Inkster's thought is that an experienced golfer should play in their foursome to show them how it's done. As the seasoned veteran mentioned, "If I get four Korean men in this pro-am, even though I don't speak their language, I'm going to make it fun for them."
And fun is the name of the game as Sorenstam learned during the pro-am. Even though an interviewer mentioned the men were "depressed" over the way Sorenstam hit the ball longer and straighter than they did, she managed to do what is done in every part of the world when it comes to golf...create business opportunites for herself on the course. Annika shared some of her "secrets" with the guys (one a big developer stated Sorenstam) in a possible exchange for the opportunity to build a course in Asian territory. As Annika divulged, she "was trying to throw my name into the pool, and we'll see."
Only time will tell if this will be good for the LPGA Tour. If sponsorships favor Asian interests, Korea, China and Japan could very well form their own mini-tour taking both American and Asian hopefuls with them by making purses more attractive and keeping the LPGA out of the loop.
The European Tour is starting to offer bigger prize money right now and PGA Tour stars like Phil Mickelson are gung-ho at the prospect. Only time will tell.
All I can say is thank goodness Michelle Wie is both Korean and American! She may keep the LPGA alive!
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