ULG's Language Services Blog

3 Keys to Success for Interpreting at Sports Events: Takeaways From our Partnership with USGA at the US Women’s Open

Every year, top golf players from around the world gather to compete in the United States Golf Association’s (USGA)  US Women’s Open tournament. Many of these players don’t speak English and require the assistance of an interpreter for both press interviews and for handling necessary day-to-day tasks during their stay. Since the event is heavily covered by the media, assembling the right language team for the job is critical. 

This year, USGA partnered with United Language Group to provide interpreters for the event. We drew on our experience providing language services for other sports organizations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to seamlessly handle this unique and exciting challenge. 

Here are three keys to success that ensured a top-notch experience for the players and their families, the press, and the USGA team.  

Special Events Call for Special Interpreters 

Interpreting for sports events (especially high-profile events like this one) requires a specific set of skills beyond language fluency. First and foremost, the interpreters need experience with sports events or similar situations, like large conferences. They need to be able to process what they hear quickly and then accurately interpret it into the appropriate language in a distracting environment. At this particular event, the interpreters also needed a high level of professionalism and people skills since they acted as bilingual concierges for players and their families. 

It was critical that we put in the time and legwork to search for the best possible team for this event. As soon as we knew that our services were needed, our recruiting team tapped into our extensive network of interpreters to find the right people for the job. USGA didn’t want just any interpreters; they wanted the best, most renowned interpreters available. And we delivered, assembling a phenomenal team of professional Japanese and Korean interpreters with 20+ years of experience in similar events. 

Preparation is Key 

The second key to success was preparation. Our interpreters deployed 7 days prior to the start of the tournament to assist with onboarding and registration. They also assisted players’ families with logistics like handling car rentals and flight changes. During practice days, they were on hand to assist players and journalists with informal pre-event interviews. 

Once the tournament started, the interpreters worked 10-12 hours each day, starting with a morning debriefing. They assisted players as needed before and during the tournament itself. After the players were done golfing for the day, the interpreters' work began in earnest: providing language support during interviews with USGA and major sports channels.  

In the interviewing booth, our interpreters were responsible for interpreting interview questions and answers to and from English, Japanese and Korean. Answers were often long and spoken quickly, requiring them to take notes in shorthand to ensure accuracy. These interviews involved big names in the women’s golf world, including the world’s top player, South Korea’s Jin Young Ko. And they were broadcast live around the world to hundreds of thousands of people, making it essential to get everything right the first time. 

Our interpreters are highly professional and take pride in what they do, just like ULG. One of our interpreters even created a notebook with stats about each of the players and their schedules to use as a reference. This level of preparation and dedication ensured that the event went smoothly despite the challenges. 

Work Toward Continuous Improvement

The final key to success is continuous improvement. Just like athletes are constantly training, ULG is always looking for ways to improve the services we offer. 

Initially, USGA requested only Japanese and Korean interpreters to accommodate highly ranked female golfers. However, as the event got underway, some of the Chinese players performed better than expected. If they had finished in the top 30, they would have required language support for interviews, as well. 

United Language Group was ready to step in if needed to source Chinese interpreters on short notice, even though it wasn’t in the original scope of work. Next time, we will be even more prepared to handle unexpected language needs. 

Proven Results 

And there will be a next time, because USGA was impressed with both ULG’s dedication and professionalism and that of our interpreters. As a result, they invited us to continue the partnership at future tournaments, including next year’s Women’s Open. 

Joey, the Assistant Manager for Championship Communications at USGA said, “ULG was phenomenal. We appreciate and are excited about this new partnership and we’re looking forward to having them support us at future events including the 2023 US Women’s Open in Pebble Beach.” 

Likewise, we look forward to supporting USGA in the future. 


Topics: Interpreting