The LPGA Tour Needs to Ban the Mask Worn By Hyo Joo Kim

Hyo Joo Kim Mask
Hyo Joo Kim hits her tee shot on the 3rd hole during the final round of the HSBC Women's World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club on May 2, 2021 in Singapore. (Photo by Lionel Ng/Getty Images)

Hyo Joo Kim carded a bogey-free 64 in the final round of the 2021 HSBC Women’s World Championship to claim a one-stroke victory. It was her first LPGA Tour win since 2016.

Yet, instead of talking about her great performance on Sunday – where the 25-year old Korean made four birdies in five holes (TWICE!), everyone was commenting on her mask.

With wrap-around sunglasses and some kind of a face mask/neck gaiter, Kim’s entire head was covered. Some joked that she looked like a beekeeper, while others chose a Star Wars character. But the most common reaction – by far – was that she appeared absolutely freaky and it belonged nowhere near tour golf – LPGA or PGA.

We agree: the LPGA should immediately ban these masks before they become more common on tour. And not because they look weird and creepy (which they do), but on the basis of an unfair competitive advantage.

Hyo Joo Kim Mask
Hyo Joo Kim (mask) fist bumps with Sophia Popov after holing out on the 18th green during the final round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club on May 2, 2021 in Singapore. (Photo by Lionel Ng/Getty Images)

Kim, who wears the face mask to cover her “neck” from getting sunburned, was asked if she gained any advantage by covering up.

“I think it might be helpful because with my sunglasses and mask on, no one can really see my face expression,” said Kim through an interpreter.

“But that wasn’t my intention.”

Um, most golf penalties aren’t intentional.

However, golf is far more mental than fans realize, and, if a player is allowed to gain an advantage – for instance by avoiding the noise and distractions that come with the final round of elite tour golf, that is a huge benefit.

Phil Mickelson discussed this very topic on Friday night after missing the cut at the Valspar.

“I know what my problem is. I’m not physically able to keep my focus,” said a frustrated Mickelson after finishing with a bogey to miss the weekend by a stroke.

“As I’ve gotten older, I have a hard time focusing. And that’s my challenge right now and I’m trying to come up about with — I’m trying all different things to be able to elongate my ability to stay focused or to refocus.”

What if Phil were to show up at next week’s Wells Fargo wearing a full mask to go along with his shades?

For golf fans, a big part of Sunday’s final rounds are the emotions we see on the faces of players coming down the stretch. TV viewers grow a bond through the reactions and passion conveyed by these players.

It’s why we see network cameras zoom in on a player’s eyes when replaying important putts: it’s to further personalize the player and develop engagement.

Tiger Woods Wins The Masters
Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win the Masters at Augusta National GC on Apr 14, 2019 in Augusta, GA. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Imagine Tiger Woods winning the 2019 Masters wearing glasses and a mask when he exploded emotionally on the 18th green? Or Jack Nicklaus donning the same getup for his iconic putt at the 1986 Masters where we watched his facial expression change with every rotation of the ball until it finally dropped and we could read his lips?

Imagine all that visual history covered up?

Beyond the competitive advantage argument, the more damaging aspect is the image it creates for the LPGA, which is horrible.

For years, since the boom in the 90s, the LPGA Tour’s Asian natives have been accused – fairly or not – of being robotic and disengaged from fans with some citing a language disconnect and others noting a cultural divide.

On Sunday, Kim played into this this criticism to precision. She was next-level robotic in both etiquette and appearance while being disengaged completely under a cloak of privacy.

UPDATE: In proving my point, Titleist congratualted Kim with a gram post, but didn’t use a photo of her swinging with the mask as it would be absolutely absurd and pointless.



12 COMMENTS

  1. I just wanted to know if it was protection from the sun or for religious reasions? I’m distressed by the comments that it should be banned because it was wierd. Grow up, if Tiger thinks he played better on Sunday by waring a red shirt and black pants, or someone else says a prayer before they put, or Paddy has a shamrock on his head cover. Who cares. They still have to swing the club, stay out of the hazards and sink the putt to win.

    • I don’t care what they wear. I said imagine not being able to see the facial reactions of a Tiger Woods or a Jack Nicklaus during some of the most iconic golf moments. That’s what makes them iconic – human emotions. But nice try. – JS

      • So according to your argument, we should ban Sunglasses too since they play a major role in expressing human emotions.

        • Did I say that? No I didn’t. I said coupled with her sunglasses. But please go ahead and convince the entire tour to wear this getup. The LPGA would lose its TV contract within a week. -JS

          • You said the mask should be banned because it hides the players’ emotions. So for that same reason, we should ban the sunglasses too whether worn with or without the mask. Also, if wearing the mask “coupled with her sunglasses” is your issue, is it ok to wear it without sunglasses? It sounds like you are making a non-issue into an issue solely based on your personal preference.

  2. This is such BS. Let her wear the mask. You have no legitimate excuse for her not to.
    It’s OK to use weird looking putters that actually do give you an advantage but not a mask that does absolutely nothing to improve your score. This complaint is really WEAK!

  3. Ten minutes afterwards you seen her with her friends in a room none of them wearing a mask when they noticed they where being filmed they tried to put them in. I believe the head gear should be band. Today tey said the golfers are bused together and een made a remark some golfers coudn’t even hug their family members. I think it looks wired and needs to beremoved.

  4. I remember when they gave Davi Duval crap about wearing the wrap around oaklys 20 years ago. I always thought they were awesome at keeping sand dirt and sun out of your eyes. There are a handful of these players that had pretty hair and didn’t even wear a hat 25 to 30 years ago and if you see them up close now it shows. I won’t mention any names regular fans know who I am talking about!

  5. It’s a competitive advantage for other players not to see her facial expressions? I must miss the PGA players growling at each other before teeing off to intimidate the other players.

    Patrick Cantlay is going on 5 or so years without a facial expression.

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