HANEY IN THE NEWS
Time for American women golfers to play better
This past Wednesday, the day before the women's U.S. Open teed off, longtime golf instructor Hank Haney was suspended from his SiriusXM radio show for comments he made about the LPGA. Here is what he and his cohost Steve Johnson said.
Johnson: "This week is the 74th U.S. Women's Open, Hank."
Haney: "Oh it is? I'm gonna predict a Korean."
Johnson, laughing: "OK, that's a pretty safe bet."
Haney: "I couldn't name you six players on the LPGA Tour. Maybe I could. Well … I'd go with Lee. If I didn't have to name a first name, I'd get a bunch of them right."
Johnson: "We've got six Lees."
Haney: "Honestly, Michelle Wie is hurt. I don't know that many. Where are they playing, by the way?"
Later in the show when informed there were complaints about what he said they had this exchange.
Haney: "I read some deal where, on the scoreboard, there's a lot of girls — isn't there a lot of girls on the LPGA Tour with the same name, right?"
Johnson: "Yeah. They have exactly the same name and they call them, like, there's six of them. They've got a Lee no. 1, a Lee no. 2, a Lee no. 3. One of them was on the leaderboard a few weeks ago, she was the no. 6 Lee."
Many in the golf world reacted as you might expect.
Michelle Wie tweeted this:
As a Korean American female golfer, these comments that @HankHaney made disappoint and anger me on so many different levels. Racism and sexism are no laughing matter Hank....shame on you. I don't ever do this, but this must be called out.
Tiger Woods said Haney got what he deserved with his suspension. (Tiger should have recused himself though. Haney wrote more than a few disparaging remarks about him in his tell-all book.)
Christine Brennan was one among many that called for SiriusXM to take action against him. They did. They suspended him the next day.
Only one problem: while Haney was condescending and insensitive, he was right. He predicted a Lee would win. A Lee won. And it was the one who has the same exact name as 5 other players on tour.
Well, not exactly the same. To differentiate amongst them they've assigned numbers to each.
I was unaware of this phenomenon until Saturday afternoon when I checked in on the tournament. The leaderboard had the names up and in 4th place that day was Lee6. I honestly thought FOX had made an error in its graphic but later Joe Buck explained it and then it dawned on me. Hank Haney and Steve Johnson weren't kidding. This is a real thing.
That I was unaware of it is even more damning. I am a golf fan. I play as much as possible and watch golf almost every weekend.
I rarely ever watch women's golf though but that's not because I'm misogynistic. It's because they're rarely ever on TV. Ever. Don't get me wrong. It's not an unwatchable product. There are plenty of really good players playing very well. It's just unwatchable here in the U.S. because Americans aren't going to watch foreigners dominate their sport which means they can't get sponsors and without sponsors they can't get on television.
It's a lot like tennis. Quick, name one tennis player not name Venus or Serena Williams. I can name two: the Bryan brothers. I'm basically a tennis savant because I know who the Bryan brothers are. Otherwise the sport is void of Americans and for that reason you can't watch tennis because none of the 4 networks will broadcast it here.
Name one popular sport in America that is dominated by foreigners. Football basically has none. Basketball has Euros but they make up a small percentage. Baseball has a bunch of hispanic players but it's still mostly Americans and oh by the way, our country is made up of a bunch of hispanics. Hockey has a bunch of Canadiens and Russians but no one can tell the difference and there aren't many people watching anyway. Soccer is growing on us as a nation but we don't watch our league. We watch the European leagues because they're better.
The PGA and LPGA are OUR tours.
The PGA has its share of Euros and Aussies with a few New Zealanders mixed in but they speak our language and they're not dominating the tour. The USA has the top 2 golfers in the World in Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson and of the top 28 men's golfers, 16 are Americans. That's why the PGA is on national television virtually every weekend of the football offseason.
The women have 4 Americans in the top 28 and our best, Lexi Thompson is 8th. That's why the LPGA is in the witness protection program.
This isn't a Hank Haney problem. This is an American women's golf problem. If you want Americans to care about your sport, play better. If you want television networks to broadcast your events, play better. If you want bigger purses (they're a fraction of the men's), play better. If you want media coverage of your events, play better.
Hank Haney is a golf guy. He has one thing to cover: golf. He should have known more about the women's game but it's hard to blame him for not caring.
He's not alone.