Golf’s “Asian Invasion”

In the world of golf there is much to discuss revolving around minority players, in this article I will talk about the prominent increase in Asian players in the last decade that is truly momentous in changing the what color the game is viewed in. A large portion of this article revolves around Michelle Wie and her influence in the game, as well as a commercial for Kia which stars Wie and does a fine job symbolizing the diversion from golf’s wealthy white roots.

First off, I will talk numbers. On the 2011 LPGA tour there are 43 players from South Korea, seven from Japan, five from Taiwan, and one each from Malaysia, China and Thailand – with six of the top ten ranked women from Asia.[1] This is important because it assists to break down the hierarchy of whites dominating the sport. As it is difficult for many minorities, especially blacks, to get involved in the sport for multiple reasons it is helpful that the Asian population is growing in the last years. One of the first noteworthy Asian players to enter the LPGA was Michelle Wie in 2009.[2]

Michelle Wie is a Hawaiian born player whose parents moved from South Korea.She began golfing at the age of 10 and became a prodigy, playing for Stanford then entering the LPGA and winning tournaments at the age of 20.2 Wie raised the bar of respect for Asian players in golf and promoted herself as such. In 2010, Wie starred as herself in a Kia Soul commercial[3] which not only advertised for the car but also metaphorically proved how the face, especially color is moving from its rich white culture to more of an “everyone’s sport”. As Wie drives her cherry red Soul into the Country Club full of white males driving Mercedes and Rolls-Royce, she gets dirty looks but as soon as she tees off, those same members drop their jaws in awe. This shows how, even though the look of a golfer might not conform to the stereotype the game has set, it does not necessarily reflect the quality of the players; and this is exactly the face lift golf needs in order to break down the hierarchies in the sport.

Implications: What does this mean? Within golf there seems to be a silent requirement to be white, male, old and by increasing amounts of Asian golfers entering the PGA and LPGA and succeeding at the sport, this requirement is being disassembled. If this trend continues and even spreads to different racial minorities the game of golf will be soon played by all and socially open to everyone.


[1] “LPGA Information: 2011 International Players” (PDF) (Press release). LPGA. Retrieved 20011-12-06.

[2] “Michelle Wie” Wikipedia. (Nov 28, 2011). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michele_Wie.

[3] “Kia Soul + Michelle Wie ‘The Arrival’ – YouTube”, n.d., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vQyZ8BoNSQ.

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