I’ll start this by being a bit of a hypocrite. I don’t want the golf media to talk about Hank Haney. But I’m going to. I really hope the majority of golf media covers the conclusion of the US Women’s Open by talking about Jeongeun Lee6. Her brilliant assuredness in collecting her first major championship (and LPGA title), as the extraordinary difficulty of winning a US Open took slow but certain hold on victim after victim. Her tears, and her translator’s tears, as she accepted the trophy behind the 18th green; a mark of how powerful it is to be someone, or see someone, who achieves something extraordinary. The moving, sad and inspiring story of her family.
Hank Haney does not deserve publicity in this story. It is NOT his story.
But I am going to write about him. To try and show how much still needs to be done.
Hank Haney predicted a Korean, probably named Lee, would win the US Women’s Open. He was right, as he pointed out on Twitter on Sunday night. The carefully researched, informed look at who was in good form and who had previous at US Open’s proved accurate. Guess we all owe Hank an apology.
Or maybe Hank owes Jeongeun Lee6 an even bigger apology than before.
Because to let him, and a whole culture of golf ‘fans’, get away with thinking those comments were acceptable or justified would be monumentally disillusioned. They may well have sounded worse than he meant them to. But it’s the influence he exerts. It’s the normalisation of casual yet concrete discrimination. Comments that are representative of a line of thinking that is more disrespectful than I can begin to explain.
To decide it would be inevitable that a Korean woman would win this major is incredibly dismissive of what it takes to win a major. The fact this instance was from someone who actually does have some idea what it takes to win a major makes it even more damning. There are a great number of extraordinary female golfers who are Korean. Whether they are first, second or third generation Koreans, they have cultivated a discipline and skillset that has lifted a country’s profile to the upper echelons of female golf. But it is those individuals, those people, that are responsible for that. Not a name. Not a flag. If there’s a person who best represents that, it’s the incredible Se Ri Pak. A woman who inspired other women. An athlete who inspired other athletes. A champion who inspired other champions. A woman who showed that it is possible to smash ceilings that others with a certain mindset will put in your way. Se Ri Pak is responsible for far more major champions than Hank Haney ever will be.
If Haney wants to claim he knew enough about the LPGA to know that there are a lot of exceptional Korean golfers, fine. But his own comments tear that justification to shreds. He didn’t know it was the week of the US Women’s Open. He didn’t know where it was being played. He said he “couldn’t name you, like six players on the LPGA Tour”. (I would put all my LET earnings on the bet that he doesn’t know the LET exists at all). Because to him, women’s golf is irrelevant. It is not worth his research. Not worth his knowledge. Not worth his understanding, or his curiosity, or his intellect. As if the skills required to make it to the top, to win major championships, are not worthy. Not in comparison to the men’s game. And that is the mindset, the conception, that is too prevalent in this world where women are desperately and powerfully trying to prove that disparity goes deeper.
I don’t know if Hank Haney has any daughters, or granddaughters. But if he did, and they chose to pursue golf… imagine they made it to a major. I wonder if he’d be relying on his radio co-host to tell him the dates and the location of that major. Too many people only care when it’s personal.
This isn’t a piece slamming Hank Haney. The irony is that it should really be his name that is irrelevant to this entire story. The world just got another major winner, one with a story that’s worth knowing, one that has reached a height of professional sport that a tiny fraction of the population are capable of. She is worth celebrating. She is worth knowing. As are all the players at the top of the game, male and female.
There will always be a place for jokes, a place for entertaining your fans and your followers and your friends. This doesn’t have to turn into a fully PC world. But there is also a darkness that is worth igniting; that needs to be acknowledged. I’m tired of having to point out this issue, tired of the disparaging treatment, tired of the everyday instances that show how far apart these worlds are and tired of people that don’t care anyway. I’m tired of probably coming across as a whiny woman who will never be satisfied with what I get. But I’m simultaneously desperate to never stop pushing this issue until it’s no longer an issue. Things are changing, and I’m excited to be a part of this world that is making them change.
… Just don’t rest on it.