LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw met with 13 of the tour's 20 Korean
players last week at the Wendy's Championship to discuss
allegations made by American players that some Koreans' fathers
routinely violate the rules by coaching their daughters during
competition and that, in one extreme case, a father improved the
lie of his daughter's ball. Young-Kwan Han spoke to SI through an
interpreter. He is the father of Hee-Won Han, who won the Wendy's
and is one of three Koreans in the top five on the LPGA money
SI: Was the meeting justified?
YH: No. It was absolutely a case of discrimination against
Koreans. The Americans are jealous that the Koreans are winning.
SI: Have Korean fathers broken any rules?
YH: Not that I know of. Most of the Korean players, like my
daughter, know what they're doing and don't need such advice.
SI: Why are Koreans singled out?
YH: The LPGA picks on the Koreans even though the same problems
exist with other international players. The LPGA says that we
should not speak to our daughters during a round, but I see the
Australians, British, Canadians and Swedes speaking to their
coaches and families. The Americans suspect that we give tips to
our daughters. I travel with Hee-Won full time and have never
helped her during a competition. When I watch her play, I'll say,
"Nice birdie!" or "That a girl!" in Korean. We are out there
supporting our daughters just like everyone else, but now they
want us to stop speaking in Korean.
SI: How come?
YH: Votaw said that other players have complained that they feel
uncomfortable when we speak in our native language because they
don't understand what we're saying. We shouldn't be blamed for
not speaking English.
SI: Do the accusations stem from cultural differences?
YH: That's definitely a big part of it. At the meeting Votaw
asked the Korean players to interact more with amateurs during
pro-ams. The Koreans aren't trying to ignore amateurs, but our
culture teaches young ladies to be reserved. Koreans also act shy
because they're not fluent in English.
SI: Is the tour being too hard on the Koreans?
YH: The LPGA is criticizing us for many things. At the meeting Mi
Hyun Kim told Votaw that he blames Koreans for a lot of problems,
but the Korean players do not judge him for dating [LPGA player]
Sophie Gustafson. Votaw told Kim that she was right.
COLOR PHOTO: JAY LAPRETE/AP (HAN) FATHER KNOWS BEST? Han says the American pros are jealous of the Koreans' success.