Aug
30
2010
Race and Cheating Allegations Plague LPGA
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA

In the past four weeks, rules controversies and the repercussions for breaking them have been making more headlines than usual. At last week’s Canadian Women’s Open, Shi Hyun Ahn and Ilmi Chung were disqualified for signing incorrect scorecards. But this may have not just been your run-of the-mill mistake. Precipitated by allegations and reports from LPGA caddie and blogger Larry Smich, there’s also a potential cheating scandal with possibly grave consequences (if Smich could have a say).

Smich, who has been called a racist (on multiple occasions) mostly for his contentious remarks against the Korean ladies, claims that the questionable circumstances behind Ahn and Chung’s DQs have proven his long-time accounts of cheating by the Koreans . (And he’s really not just racist!) On his blog, he documents a second-hand account of the alleged incident, where the ladies played the wrong ball on the 18th hole and signed incorrect scorecards.

Both balls were in the fairway. Ahn missed the green and Ilmi hit hers on. Ahn chipped it close and tapped in for par. This is where it all begins. Apparently, Ahn noticed that this was not her ball and conversed in Korean with Ilmi. In the mean time, at least one caddie in the group noticed it also but did not say anything. They finished the hole, went to the scoring tent, checked the scores and signed their cards. Somewhere, either before or after going to the tent, Ahn told her caddie (a Nationwide looper and only working for her this week) “You did not see anything”.

Smich calls for the punishment of the the ladies involved in the so-called conspiracy to be handled in the “harshest manner possible.” He goes so far to suggest lifetime banishment. Which seems a tad extreme. I mean, just curious — would he propose the same for two blonde American players?

Waggle Room’s Ryan Ballengee follows up with some astute reporting.

When Ahn and Chung realized what had happened, Chung’s caddy approached Downey’s caddy and said, “We have a bit of a problem, but I’m not saying anything.” Downey’s caddy went into the scoring tent. Ahn and Chung signed for their scores. Downey’s caddy was prepared to turn in Ahn and Chung, which then prompted their seeking of LPGA officials for a ruling and their certain disqualification.

Ryan also spoke with LPGA spokesman Mike Scanlon, who commented in an email:

“No one with the LPGA was privy to any discussions between the players and caddies in advance of the players’ efforts to seek out a rules official to explain the situation. We know only that the players came forward, admitted their issue and received the appropriate result based on the Rules of Golf.”

Smich makes another allegation of an unnamed Korean player that supposedly got away with whiffing and double-hitting a putt. And in his latest entry on Sunday he declares:

You know what is about to hit the fan regarding the latest cheating allegations. Think the boiling point has been reached. There’s plenty I don’t write about. One item is very, very big. The more inside stuff I discover, the more disgusted I become. Plenty of support from players and caddies on my revelations. I jeopardize my chances of getting work but this must be dealt with in the open to maintain any credibility. The Tour will be stronger for it.

Shit?

Smich’s accusations and statements are rather serious and are apparently being taken as such. According to Steve Elling of CBSsports.com, LPGA communications chief David Higdon plans to interview all parties involved and then figure out a course of action.

“We have treated this situation very seriously, and have or will speak to all principles involved,” Higdon said in an email Sunday morning. “Yes, we are looking very closely at it.”

But a tidbit that’s been overlooked in all of the hoopla is that Smich’s player, Stephanie Louden, (actually) made the cut last weekend, but she dumped him for her husband. Smich says not to “read more into it than what it is, but it was totally unexpected.” Also, in Smich’s Sunday blog post, he mentions he’ll be looking for a bag in Arkansas, implying Louden canned him permanently.

I’m not sure what to make of it all yet before we hear all the facts, but if the ladies did in fact conspire to cheat, Ahn and Chung should be punished accordingly. To my knowledge, they’re first-time offenders, so perhaps a suspension and a fine will suffice. I don’t think the ladies should be banished and turned into examples.

As for Smich’s take on things, I wish the report was coming from someone else because it’s hard for me to take his report at face value since I’ve read his blog on occasion and have found some comments offensive and bigoted. I’m not exactly the most politically correct person and I’m not offended easily when it comes to passing jokes, but it’s different when resentment and contempt are inferred from such remarks — which is what I’ve interpreted from Smich’s rants against the Koreans.

That said, it sounds like the facts in the first account are relatively accurate, but we don’t know yet what was lost in translation between the players and their caddies. Let’s also remember how much the details of an incident transform each time it’s passed from one person to another.

Stay tuned as the details continue to unfold.