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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Give Michelle Wie a break, leave her alone

By David Shapiro


It's difficult to decide which is more remarkable — young Michelle Wie's unprecedented achievements in golf or all the old grumps out there who are so quick to criticize this 15-year-old as she finds her way to greatness.

It seems everybody has an unsolicited opinion about how Wie should run her life and career.

She should back away from pro tournaments and focus on junior golf, critics say.

She should stick to women's golf and stop dabbling in men's events such as the Amateur Public Links she's playing this week in Ohio.

She should give up her dreams of becoming the first woman to play regularly on the PGA tour and win a spot in the Masters Tournament.

Wie is living every teen's fantasy. What's wrong with enjoying the fun? Why shouldn't she test the limits of her abilities instead of accepting arbitrary boundaries placed on her by others who lack her imagination?

There's a lot for the small-minded to be jealous about when it comes to Michelle Wie. Beyond her prodigious golf game, the Punahou sophomore has the looks of a model and the brains to aspire to Stanford University.

The massive galleries that follow her on the golf course appreciate that they are witnessing something special.

They also appreciate how Wie sidesteps critics with style, good humor and respect for her elders.

But envious fellow competitors and know-it-alls in the sporting press complain that she's mostly skipped junior and amateur programs that traditionally spit out the pros and is getting into tournaments via sponsor exemptions instead of "paying her dues."

Well, professional golf isn't about who pays the most dues; it's about who plays the best golf.

Fellow golfers who can still beat Wie should shut up and let their clubs do their talking.

Those who can't beat her should just shut up.

Self-important commentators should save their career advice for someone who cares. Wie and her parents seem to have her future covered just fine.

Wie has talked loudly with her golf game, starting with her victory at the women's Amateur Public Links Championship at 13, becoming the youngest player ever to win an adult U.S. Golf Association championship.

In 19 women's professional events since turning 13, Wie has missed the cut only once.

She's finished out of the top 20 only twice in the last two years, and has three top-10s in women's majors — including second place to Annika Sorenstam in this year's LPGA Championship.

Wie shared the lead going into the final round of the 2005 Women's U.S. Open until a rare meltdown landed her in a tie for 23rd with Sorenstam.

If Wie's amateur status hadn't precluded her from accepting prize money, her nearly $300,000 in "winnings" in her first four events this year would have put her at 13th place in LPGA earnings against women who played as many as 13 events.

Her forays into men's golf have been less successful, but perspective is in order.

Tiger Woods didn't play his first PGA event until age 16 and missed the cut by six strokes.

Wie did him two years and five strokes better by finishing only one shot off the cut in her first try at the men's Sony Open at 14, beating nearly half the field.

She missed the cut by two strokes in last week's John Deere Classic and still has three tries to make a PGA cut in fewer events than it took Woods.

Speculation is growing that Wie will turn pro when she becomes 16 in October and immediately sign endorsement contracts worth millions.

Have a blast, kid.