Under increasing criticism, the LPGA Tour on Friday backed off plans to suspend players who could not efficiently speak English at tournaments.
LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said she would have a revised plan by the end of the year that would not include suspensions for players unable to speak English in pro-ams, trophy presentations or interviews. Fining such players remained an option.
Bivens disclosed the tour's original plan in a meeting with South Korean players two weeks ago at the Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore., Golfweek magazine reported. The policy, which had not been written, was widely criticized as discriminatory, particularly against Asian players.
The LPGA membership includes 121 international players from 26 countries, including 45 from South Korea. Asians won three of the four majors this year.
"We have decided to rescind those penalty provisions," Bivens said in a statement. "After hearing the concerns, we believe there are other ways to achieve our shared objective of supporting and enhancing the business opportunities for every tour player."
The reversal was quickly hailed by two California lawmakers who challenged the original policy.
State Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, had asked the Legislature's legal office to determine whether the English policy violated state or federal anti-discrimination laws. If it was deemed legal, Yee said he would have pushed for legislation banning such policies in California.
The LPGA Tour plays three events in California, including its first major championship.
"I'm very pleased that the LPGA saw the wisdom of the concerns that we raised," Yee said. "It's a no-brainer for those of us who have been the recipient of these kinds of discriminatory acts."
State Assemblyman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, said he would target corporate sponsors if the LPGA persisted with its English requirement.
"I'm pleased they have come to their senses," he said.
Bivens' announcement came two hours before the Asian Pacific American Legal Center planned a news conference in Los Angeles to demand the LPGA overturn its policy.
"Until they completely retract it, issue an apology to the players and the fans, I think we'll remain very concerned and interested in what happens," said Gerald D. Kim, a senior staff attorney for the center. "The LPGA has gone about this totally the wrong way."