Golf instructor criticized for insensitive statements about LPGA players

CHARLESTON, South Carolina—A golf instructor was called out for predicting a Korean golfer would win the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament, which is played at the Country Club in Charleston, South Carolina.

            Hank Haney, who once served as Tiger Woods’ swing coach, made disparaging comments on his SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio program, May 29. The comments were deemed as racist and sexist on social media and news outlets alike, as they targeted female Korean golfers.

            Haney specifically said some Korean would win the tournament, but, just the same, he couldn’t name any golfers competing in the 74th Women’s Open in Charleston.

            “I’m going to predict a Korean” will win the tournament, Haney said during the early stages of his radio show. “That’s gonna be my prediction. I couldn’t name you, like, six players on the LPGA Tour.”

            The gold instructor then tried to “correct” himself, saying he actually could name a few golfers on the LPGA tour.

            “Nah, 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. I don’t know…Lexi Thompson…Michelle Wie’s hurt. I don’t know that many,” Haney said.

            Haney’s comments were immediately met with the wrath of social media comments, including Tweets by Wie, who happens to be a Korean golfer and LPGA regular.

            “Shame on you @HankHaney,” Wie said in response to a Tweet about Haney’s comments.

            “As a Korean American female golfer, these comments that @HankHaney made disappoint and anger me on so many different levels,” Wie said in another Tweet reply five minutes later. “Racism and sexism are no laughing matter Hank…shame on you. I don’t ever do this, but this must be called out.”

            Haney did apologize, first toward the end of his show then again on his Twitter page, @HankHaney.

            “This morning I made some comments about women’s professional golf and its players that were insensitive and that I regret,” Haney wrote. “In an effort to make a point bout the overwhelming success of Korean players on the tour I offended people and I am sorry. I have the highest respect for women who have worked so hard to reach the pinnacle of their sport and I never meant to take away from their abilities and accomplishments.

            “I’ve worked in the game with men and women players from many different cultures and I look forward to continuing to do so,” Haney’s Tweet continued.

            Woods, who Haney had worked with, is half Thai.

            The 2019 U.S. Women’s Open Championship in Charleston features 156 players from 29 countries competing for $5.5 million, the largest purse ever in professional women’s golf, according to the LPGA. The tournament’s winner will take home $1 million.

            This is the second major title on the 2019 LPGA tour; Jin Young Ko, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, won the first major LPGA title of the year back in April. Ko has 14 professional wins.

            Inbee Park, who was also born in Seoul, was the youngest golfer to win an LPGA championship; the won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2008, when she was 19 years, 11 months and 17 days old.