Michelle Wie calls out Hank Haney's controversial remarks about LPGA's US Women's Open

Cassandra Negley
KAPOLEI, HAWAII - APRIL 19: Michelle Wie watches her drive on the 13th hole during the second round of the LOTTE Championship on April 19, 2019 in Kapolei, Hawaii. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Michelle Wie called Hank Haney's comments on the US Women's Open 'shameful.' (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

One of golf’s top instructors joked he didn’t know the LPGA’s U.S. Women’s Open was being played this week in Charleston, South Carolina, and it didn’t get better from there.

Hank Haney, a commentator most well known for coaching Mark O’Meara and Tiger Woods, made the remarks on his SiriusXM PGA Tour radio show Wednesday. The racist and sexist comments brought backlash from golfers and golf fans.

Haney ‘predicts a Korean’ to win

Haney had on fellow instructor Steve Johnson for a predictions segment that opened with talk of the U.S. Women’s Open, which begins Thursday.

The full clip, via Golf News Net Radio, is only 45 seconds.

Johnson: This week is the 74th U.S. Women’s Open, Hank.

Haney: Oh is it? I’m going to predict a Korean. OK?

Johnson (laughing): OK, that’s a pretty safe bet.

Haney: That’s going to be my prediction. I could name you like six players on the LPGA tour. No, maybe I couldn’t. Ah, well, I’d go with Lee. If I didn’t have to name a first name I’d get a bunch of them right.

The Jim Carey “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” clip from “Dumb and Dumber” played behind the conversation as Haney continued to say he doesn’t know any players.

The conversation quickly moved to other topics. Sean Zak of golf.com shared more from the show where the two tried to explain the situation. Johnson makes sure to note “everybody has an agenda.”

Johnson references a “No. 6 Lee” on the leaderboard a few weeks ago, a potential reference to Jeongeun Lee6. The Korean LPGA attached the 6 to her name because of the amount of “Lee” surnames on the tour and the Golf Channel digital team’s introduction to that is a good example of how to approach it.

Haney and Johnson actually discuss avoiding LPGA conversation on their show before Haney says they’ll follow the U.S. Open.

Wie calls out Haney

Michelle Wie, the only golfer Haney could name, is not competing in the tournament while she recovers from a hand injury. She commented on Haney’s remarks after reporters starting tweeting and told him “shame on you.”

“I don’t ever do this, but this must be called out,” she wrote.

Fellow golfers chimed in with facepalm and anger emojis.

Haney apologizes, suspended

Haney started getting “blown up” via Twitter comments while still on the air for the show and addressed it but claimed “I can’t remember what I said ...”

Johnson told him he was not racist, to which Haney said “definitely not.” He later formally apologized on Twitter by saying he was trying to “make a point about the overwhelming success of Korean players on the tour.”

The PGA Tour and SiriusXM released a joint statement on Thursday condemning Haney’s comments and announcing that they have suspended Haney fro his radio channel.

“Mr. Haney’s comments on women’s professional golf were insensitive and do not represent the views of the PGA Tour or SiriusSM,” the statement read. “The PGA Tour is committed to and proud of the increasingly diverse makeup of our fan base, not to mention the power and accomplishments of the game’s world-class, global players — both on the PGA Tour and LPGA, whom we are working with more closely than ever before.

“SiriusXM proudly covers and supports both women’s and men’s golf and the athletes that make them great. At the PGA Tour’s instruction, Mr. Haney has been suspended from the SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio channel. SiriusXM is reviewing his status on SiriusXM going forward.”

Haney briefly apologized at the end of the statement, and said he accepts the suspension.

Why Haney’s remarks matter

The women’s tour gets very little media promotion as it is and as with many women’s sports, it’s seen and spoken about as if a joke. Haney’s comments won’t help that any seeing as he literally starts the segment saying he didn’t know the event was taking place this week. Whether he was trying to jest or not, it puts down women who are playing at the highest level.

As a “golf professional” he should care about all golfers and the strength of the game. He alludes to it in his apology statement on Twitter. And as a commentator, even one who does a show on the PGA Tour, he should at the very least know the names of some of the top golfers. Many have taken to Twitter to point this out. Instead, he lumps them all together and leaves them to be nameless nobodies.

Haney said he tried to make a point about the “overwhelming success of Korean players on the tour.” A look at the leaderboard shows a lot of Koreans at the top, yet none of this year’s winners are named Lee.

Joking about naming “Lee” players is akin to naming the four “Smith” players on the PGA Tour. And that would never happen.

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