Sports Outside the Beltway

Diversity in golf?

Craig Dolch at the Palm Beach Post wrote-

In 2000, there were 19 foreign-born players on the PGA Tour. This season, there are 24 Australians alone.

Want more proof of how international the Tour has become? This year’s Masters, for the first time, will have more foreign players than Americans.

International invasion
Foreign players have steadily increased in number on the PGA Tour this decade:

Year Number
2000 19
2001 48
2002 56
2003 60
2004 71
2005 78
2006 75
2007 76
Source: PGA Tour
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“That’s an unbelievable stat, for sure,” said one of the foreign players, England’s Justin Rose. “Golf is a growing sport in Europe, and our presence over here is only going to get stronger and stronger.”

The Honda Classic reflects this global shift, with its past two winners non-Americans: England’s Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington of Ireland. That’s quite a change from watching the first 21 Hondas won by U.S. players. Zimbabwe’s Nick Price, now a Jupiter Island resident, ended that streak when he won the 1994 Honda at Weston Hills. Since, six of the past 13 Honda winners have been international players.

So why did the PGA Tour go from being comprised mostly by Americans to a melting pot? Most players say it comes down to two words: world rankings.

In the late 1990s, the PGA Tour started using the world rankings to set the fields for the three lucrative World Golf Championships. This gave foreign players an easier way in to those events, and the prize money that comes with them.

Then, the four major championships soon added world rankings to their entry criteria – anyone in the top 50 gets in. By playing in only those seven tournaments, international players could earn enough money to gain their Tour card and full access to the rest of the events on the PGA Tour.

The money and ease of jet travel have been here for years, so I think the World Golf Championships are part if not most of the cause for more foreign players in the US. Also there are more players like Luke Donald or Carl Pettersson who played college golf in the states. I think that has to have changed the equation also.

In the past players like Greg Norman, David Graham, Bruce Crampton and Bruce Devlin turned pro in Australia and eventually came to the US to play. Australians have been playing the US or European golf circuits for fifty years. Look at five time British Open Champ Peter Thomson. With the exception of Thomson,(Note Thomson only won one US non-senior title in limited play.) career on the seniors tour was suce these Australians were all very sucessful in the US and lived here also at least on a part-time basis.

While the PGA tour is diverse in Europeans and Australians, there is black hole when it comes to players of color. Other than Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, KJ Choi and Shigeki Maruyama, there are few proven Asian golfers on tour and no blacks on tour.(None that I know of, unless any made it through the last Q school) The LPGA on the other hand features over 40 South Korean players alone but has no blacks either. Are the pro golf tours really diverse?

I think we can still safely say golf is still a game for white men.

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