Asian Americans on LPGA Tour Break Silence on Racism, Sexism

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ATLANTA – The Asian-born players have won eight of the last 10 PGA Women’s Championships, but there is nothing cookie-cutter about the winners. They include Shanshan Feng from China, who wore tailored cow pants to reflect her playful personality, and Sung Hyun Park from South Korea, who had a Korean word on her bag that translated as “I’m different.”

More than five dozen Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are members of the LPGA, more than any North American professional sports league or tour. Several other members have Asian roots, and their convergence with the Atlanta Athletic Club this week for the third major tournament of the season highlights both their ancestry and ancestry.

The golf course is about 15 minutes from two of the three massage companies where eight people, including six Asian women, were shot and killed in March in a crime that sums up the escalation of violence against Asians in America during the pandemic.

The rise of anti-Asian hatred and prejudice has brought players out of their silence. For years, these women have suffered micro-attacks on their names, their appearance, and even their success. At a time when Asians have been the scapegoats in American communities for the spread of the coronavirus, players of Asian descent who show no fear on the golf course have become uncomfortable and outraged, to the point of express themselves on what it means and how it feels to be Asian in the United States right now.

“I’m afraid every time I see the news that this could happen to me,” said Yani Tseng, two-time PGA Women’s Champion and the first player from Taiwan to become world number 1.

Tseng, 32, was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012, but in 2021, she feels helpless. Tseng, who said she fell in love with America on her first visit in 2007 because everyone “was so nice,” was in disbelief when a friend who lives in Irvine, Calif., Recounted a story. terrifying experience she had had while sitting in her car in a parking lot at the grocery store. A group of strangers approached his car and attempted to open its locked doors, hitting the car so forcefully that the vehicle swayed. After hearing this, Tseng, who has a residence in San Diego, about a 90-minute drive south of Irvine, said, “I was really worried about myself.”

At home in Taiwan, her family is worried too. “Every time they see the news, they say, ‘Are you okay? »», She declared.

Nine-time LPGA tour winner Na Yeon Choi, one of 25 LPGA members from South Korea, has previously traveled to events in America accompanied by her mother. But she advised him not to bother coming to the United States for his tournaments this year, even if, or over time, travel restrictions are relaxed.

“I thought it wasn’t safe for her to be alone when I was focusing on training,” Choi said. “She doesn’t speak English, so she would be stuck in the hotel because I wouldn’t want her to go out.”

According to a national report released by Stop AAPI Hate, 6,603 incidents of anti-Asian violence, harassment and discrimination were reported to the organization in the past 12 months ending March 31. Verbal harassment (65.2%), rejection (18.1%) and physical assault (12.6 percent) led to the incidents recorded.

After a white gunman allegedly opened fire on the three Atlanta-area spas, the LPGA released a statement in support of the AAPI community and Choi received an internal email, which she said had been sent to all players, advising them to be careful when venturing outside the tour bubble at all tournaments.

In March, Mike Whan, the outgoing LPGA commissioner, said there had been isolated incidents involving Asian players away from tournament venues over the years, including some in which tour security details had to be involved.

The Covid-19 protocols put in place over the past year have provided a protective membrane. Players were prohibited from dining or socializing outside the tournament grounds or their accommodations. And the tournaments had little to no spectators. But their environments are not waterproof and pandemic protocols are loosening, increasing interactions between players and the public.

Players are distracted by concerns about the safety of their loved ones – and themselves.

Mina Harigae, 31, a four-time California amateur female champion from Monterey whose parents are Japanese, said, “I’ll be honest. I got so scared that I went online and bought a self-defense stick.

At the first women’s tournament of the year, held outside of Palm Springs, Calif., Michelle Wie West said she raced at a shopping mall near the course, one the thousands of stops she made for one forgotten item or another during her nearly two decades of competing in LPGA events. This time, however, it was different.

“It was the first time that I was really scared,” she said, adding: “We’re a target now, unfortunately.”

Lydia Ko, 24, a Korean-born New Zealander with 16 LPGA wins, including two majors, admitted during the Los Angeles tour in April that she was worried her mother was traveling alone to the United States.

Tiffany Joh, a first generation American, grew up in a nice neighborhood in San Diego. His parents born in South Korea still live nearby. “It was a pretty sad day when my mom was like, ‘Should we start carrying pepper spray?'” Said Joh.

Joh, 34, is easy to place on the golf course. Just follow the laughter. With liners as crisp as her iron shots, she spent two years grinding on what is now the Symetra Tour, where she often stayed with families to save money before joining the LPGA Tour in 2011.

At a stop, Joh recalls, his hosts noticed his height, which is 5 feet 6 inches, and asked, “Are both of your parents Oriental?” Because you are tall enough and built for an oriental.

“I said, ‘No I’m not a mat and I’m not a chicken salad, so no I’m not an oriental,” Joh said. “And then I was joking because for me, when I have a feeling of discomfort, my defense mechanism is humor. So I said, ‘You know, nobody ever told me that my parents were my real parents. Maybe I need to talk to the milkman. And they said, “Oh, no, honey. That would be the soymilk man. They were trying to be cute.

Joh added, “It was kind of an example of how you can educate someone without being a jerk about it.”

Jane Park also used humor to deflect awkward situations. Although she won the US Women’s Amateur while in high school and competing on the LPGA Tour since 2007, Park, an American of Korean descent, could tell of the initial lack of enthusiasm of her partners in game enthusiasts they thought she was another indistinguishable – eyed – Asian player during a pro-am in Arizona several years ago.

So she decided to play a prank on them. On the first tee, she formally bowed and greeted them in Korean, then said nothing more for the rest of the hole. At the second hole, she asked in English if they were ready for the beers, and her playmates laughed and livened up for the remainder of the round.

But not all indignities can be dismissed with laughter. Park, 34, lives with her husband and 11-month-old daughter about five miles from one of the three targeted massage businesses. She described the spa shootings as “shocking.”

They found a memory from a few years ago, when she was waiting to pay for a pair of shoes at a nearby store. A woman behind her online whispered an anti-Asian derogatory towards her. “My whole body started to sweat,” said Park, who turned and told the woman, “I understand English.”

The Atlanta shootings rocked South Korea’s three-time PGA Women’s Champion and former World No.1 Inbee Park, whose aunt runs a dry cleaning business not far from where they happened. “I called her right away to make sure she was okay,” she said, adding: “It’s really unfortunate what’s going on.”

The rise of anti-Asian sentiment in American society has made players see their experiences on the golf course in a different light. Park wondered why broadcasters kept mispronouncing Asian player names even after she corrected them on social media. Or why she was asked if she was related to “all the other parks” on the tour.

Christina Kim, a Californian of Korean descent, is tired of hearing Asians ‘talk fun’ and really tired of the added pressure that Asian-born players on tour feel to speak the Queen’s English to avoid having to talk. ‘to be mocked or criticized. She’s fed up with people on social media sending her comments about ‘kung flu’.

Asian players are weary of the many micro-aggressions they have to deflect, ignore or swallow because competitive golf at the highest level presents enough obstacles without having to also bypass the dangers of race and gender. .

Wie West, 2014 US Open Women’s Champion, said: “I think back to many questions journalists ask me. “Why are South Koreans so good? This question has always bothered me, but I answered it. I was like “Oh, because they train really hard” and saying I was playing micro-aggression. I’ve never really put two and two together to find out why this question, and some other comments, bothered me until this year.

The next person to ask Wie West the question will receive a different answer. She said, “I would say that’s a really inappropriate question.”

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