Aloha World Wie Turns Professional

By Associated PressOctober 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
HONOLULU -- Sitting in a hotel suite overlooking swaying palms and the rolling Pacific surf, Michelle Wie leaned forward and gazed at the newspaper. The front page was a reminder of how far she's come and the expectations that are greater than ever.
 
The Honolulu Advertiser ran four pictures of Hawaii's biggest sports sensation in the paper Wednesday. There she was at age 10 with chubby cheeks and a grown-up swing; at age 13 and 14 competing against the pros; and as a celebrity in a formal red dress at last year's Laureus Sports Awards in Portugal.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie put on a driving exhibition after making her announcement.
The headline: ``Why she's worth millions.''
 
``I don't know why,'' Wie said softly. ``But I'm going to try hard to live up to it.''
 
Already one of the most famous athletes in the world, Wie became the richest female golfer Wednesday when she stood before a crowded conference room and realized a dream a dozen years in the making.
 
``I'm finally happy to say I'm a pro starting today,'' said Wie, wearing a pink Nike shirt and high heels that made her stand even taller than 6 feet. ``The first time I grabbed a golf club, I knew I'd do it for the rest of my life. Some 12 years later, I'm finally turning pro, and I'm so excited.''
 
Wie signed endorsement deals with Nike and Sony, which will pay her as much as $10 million a year.
 
There was no Tigeresque ``Hello, World'' moment, as there was when Woods turned pro in 1996. Wie looked nervous while waiting to be introduced, flanked by her new agent, Ross Berlin of the William Morris Agency, and executives from her two sponsors.
 
``Usually at a press conference, I don't have to make a speech,'' she said. ``I don't like making speeches.''
 
Wie will be judged by her golf, and that's where the expectations lie.
 
She makes her professional debut next week in the Samsung World Championship in California. Wie also will play the week of Thanksgiving at the Casio World Open in Japan, her sixth time competing against men.
 
``I know I have to win. That's my priority right now,'' Wie said. ``Everyone expects me to do better and work hard, and I'm going to try my best.''
 
She has redefined success since winning the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links at age 13, the youngest champion of a USGA title for adults. She hasn't hoisted another trophy on her own, but her amazing feats have fanned the hype over her potential.
 
She shot 68 at the Sony Open as a 14-year-old still wearing a retainer, the lowest score ever by a female competing on a men's tour. She reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links this summer, three rounds away from her long-shot bid of getting into the Masters. She twice has come within a whisker of making the cut on the PGA Tour.
 
Against the women, Wie has more than held her own.
 
She was runner-up at the LPGA Championship to Annika Sorenstam, and tied for third at the Women's British Open. She has made the cut in her last 16 LPGA events dating to 2003, and would have earned about $640,870 on the LPGA Tour this year had she not been an amateur. That would have put her 13th on the money list in only seven starts.
 
``She's the whole package,'' said Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf. ``But it's all potential. It's all in front of her.''
 
The other Nike client -- Tiger Woods -- took a different route. He won three straight U.S. Amateur titles and dominated every age group until he turned pro in 1996, earning his PGA Tour card with two victories in seven stars. Then came his record-setting victory in the Masters.
 
Wie still has two years left at Punahou School, and will play only a limited schedule until she graduates. But her marketing appeal is above any other woman in golf -- a 6-footer of Korean heritage who was raised in Hawaii, has loads of charisma and power and a captivating smile to boot.
 
``What's similar in her and Tiger is they have instantaneous, worldwide appeal,'' Wood said. ``Talk to the guys in Europe. She's going to be huge there. She's just a great story. She's a great Nike story. If there's anybody that can personify 'Just Do It,' it's Michelle.''
 
Wie is not expected to join the LPGA Tour until she turns 18, although she can play up to eight of its events a year. She also will play a few times on the PGA Tour, and against men and women overseas.
 
``Michelle is a young woman with phenomenal talent who brings the promise of incredible performance and a marketability that will draw fans of all ages from all corners of the world into the sport of golf like never before,'' LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said.
 
Wie's endorsement package is about $3 million more than what Sorenstam gets each year, even though the Swede has won 66 times on the LPGA Tour and nine majors.
 
Asked if she had any advice for the teen prodigy, Sorenstam said:
 
``So far, I think she is doing pretty good on her own. I think the key though is ... it needs to be fun. It's very important to have a passion for the game and play golf for the right reasons.''
 
Woods has never played with Wie, but does not question her ability.
 
``When I was 16, I wasn't even thinking about turning pro. I was just hoping to get into college somewhere,'' he said. ``She has a talent, and has been good enough to make a giant step like that.''
 
The first big step came Wednesday, with an announcement everyone knew was coming.
 
Her parents were there, of course. B.J. Wie took pictures of his only child as she sat on the stage.
 
``Bringing her down the stairs, it felt like it was a wedding,'' he said. ``It was a strange feeling. Becoming a professional means she will have more responsibility. She has to be able to handle much higher expectations. She'll have extra pressure.''
 
And the money?
 
Her father already has set up a trust that Wie can access when he feels she is ready. But he noted that she already has made sound stock investments using money she earned playing friendly matches against his pals.
 
``Her purse was filled with $5 bills,'' Dad said.
 
Related Links:
  • Video: Wie Makes Announcement
  • Wie Bio
  • Photo Gallery
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Copycat: Honda's 17th teeters on edge of good taste

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 12:37 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The Honda Classic won’t pack as many fans around its party hole this week as the Phoenix Open does, but there is something more intensely intimate about PGA National’s stadium setup.

    Players feel like the spectators in the bleachers at the tee box at Honda’s 17th hole are right on top of them.

    “If the wind’s wrong at the 17th tee, you can get a vodka cranberry splashed on you,” Graeme McDowell cracked. “They are that close.”

    Plus, the 17th at the Champion Course is a more difficult shot than the one players face at Scottsdale's 16th.

    It’s a 162-yard tee shot at the Phoenix Open with no water in sight.

    It’s a 190-yard tee shot at the Honda Classic, to a small, kidney-shaped green, with water guarding the front and right side of the green and a bunker strategically pinched into the back-center. Plus, it’s a shot that typically must be played through South Florida’s brisk winter winds.

    “I’ve hit 3- and 4-irons in there,” McDowell said. “It’s a proper golf hole.”

    It’s a shot that can decide who wins late on a Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line.

    Factor in the intensely intimate nature of that hole, with fans partaking in libations at the Gosling Bear Trap pavilion behind the 17th tee and the Cobra Puma Village behind the 17th green, and the degree of difficulty there makes it one of the most difficult par 3s on the PGA Tour. It ranked as the 21st most difficult par 3 on the PGA Tour last year with a 3.20 scoring average. Scottsdale's 16th ranked 160th at 2.98.

    That’s a fairly large reason why pros teeing it up at the Honda Classic don’t want to see the Phoenix-like lunacy spill over here the way it threatened to last year.

    That possibility concerns players increasingly agitated by the growing unruliness at tour events outside Phoenix. Rory McIlroy said the craziness that followed his pairing with Tiger Woods in Los Angeles last week left him wanting a “couple Advil.” Justin Thomas, also in that grouping, said it “got a little out of hand.”


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    So players will be on alert arriving at the Honda Classic’s 17th hole this week.

    A year ago, Billy Horschel complained to PGA Tour officials about the heckling Sergio Garcia and other players received there.

    Horschel told GolfChannel.com last year that he worried the Honda Classic might lose some of its appeal to players if unruly fan behavior grew worse at the party hole, but he said beefed up security helped on the weekend. Horschel is back this year, and so is Garcia, good signs for Honda as it walks the fine line between promoting a good party and a good golf tournament.

    “I embrace any good sporting atmosphere as long as it stays respectful,” Ian Poulter said. “At times, the line has been crossed out here on Tour. People just need to be sensible. I am not cool with being abused.

    “Whenever you mix alcohol with a group of fans all day, then Dutch courage kicks in at some stage.”

    Bottom line, Poulter likes the extra excitement fans can create, not the insults some can hurl.

    “I am all up for loud crowds,” he said. “A bit of jeering and fun is great, but just keep it respectful. It’s a shame it goes over the line sometimes. It needs to be managed.”

    Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly oversees that tough job. In 12 years leading the event, he has built the tournament into something special. The attendance has boomed from an estimated 65,000 his first year at the helm to more than 200,000 last year.

    With Tiger Woods committed to play this year, Kennerly is hopeful the tournament sets an attendance record. The arrival of Woods, however, heightens the challenges.

    Woods is going off with the late pairings on Friday, meaning he will arrive at Honda’s party hole late in the day, when the party’s fully percolating.

    Kennerly is expecting 17,000 fans to pack that stadium-like atmosphere on the event’s busiest days.

    Kennerly is also expecting the best from South Florida fans.

    “We have a zero tolerance policy,” Kennerly said. “We have more police officers there, security and more marshals.

    “We don’t want to be nasty and throw people out, but we want them to be respectful to players. We also want it to continue to be a fun place for people to hang out, because we aren’t getting 200,000 people here just to watch golf.”

    Kennerly said unruly fans will be ejected.

    “But we think people will be respectful, and I expect when Tiger and the superstars come through there, they aren’t going to have an issue,” Kennerly said.

    McDowell believes Kennerly has the right balance working, and he expects to see that again this week.

    “They’ve really taken this event up a couple notches the last five or 10 years with the job they’ve done, especially with what they’ve done at the 16th and 17th holes,” McDowell said. “I’ve been here a lot, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the Phoenix level yet.”

    The real test of that may come Friday when Woods makes his way through there at the end of the day.

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    Door officially open for Woods to be playing vice captain

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 11:50 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Thirteen months ago, when Jim Furyk was named the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, one of the biggest questions was what would happen if Furyk were to play his way onto his own team.

    It wasn’t that unrealistic. 

    At the time, Furyk was 46 and coming off a season in which he tied for second at the U.S. Open and shot 58 in a PGA Tour event. If anything, accepting the Ryder Cup captaincy seemed premature.

    And now?

    Now, he’s slowly recovering from shoulder surgery that knocked him out of action for six months. He’s ranked 230th in the world. He’s planning to play an 18-event schedule, on past champion status, mostly to be visible and available to prospective team members.

    A playing captain? Furyk chuckled at the thought.

    “Wow,” he said here at PGA of America headquarters, “that would be crazy-difficult.”

    That’s important to remember when assessing Tiger Woods’ chances of becoming a playing vice captain.

    On Tuesday, Woods was named an assistant for the matches at Le Golf National, signing up for months of group texts and a week in which he'd sport an earpiece, scribble potential pairings on a sheet of paper and fetch anything Team USA needs.

    It’s become an increasingly familiar role for Woods, except this appointment isn’t anything like his vice captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016 or last year’s Presidents Cup.

    Unlike the past few years, when his competitive future was in doubt because of debilitating back pain, there’s at least a chance now that Woods can qualify for the team on his own, or deserve consideration as a captain’s pick. 

    There’s a long way to go, of course. He’s 104th in the points standings. He’s made only two official starts since August 2015. His driving needs a lot of work. He hasn’t threatened serious contention, and he might not for a while. But, again: Come September, it’s possible.

    And so here was Woods’ taped message Tuesday: “My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the cup.”

    That follows what Woods told reporters last week at Riviera, when he expressed a desire to be a playing vice captain.

    “Why can’t I have both?” he said. “I like both.”

    Furyk, eventually, will have five assistants in Paris, and he could have waited to see how Woods fared this year before assigning him an official role.

    He opted against that. Woods is too valuable of an asset.

    “I want him on-board right now,” Furyk said.

    Arnold Palmer was the last to serve as both player and captain for a Ryder Cup – in 1963. Nothing about the Ryder Cup bears any resemblance to those matches, other than there’s still a winner and a loser. There is more responsibility now. More planning. More strategy. More pressure.

    For the past two team competitions, the Americans have split into four-man pods that practiced together under the supervision of one of the assistants. That assistant then relayed any pertinent information to the captain, who made the final decision.

    The assistants are relied upon even more once the matches begin. Furyk will need to be on the first tee for at least the first hour of the matches, welcoming all of the participants and doing interviews for the event’s many TV partners, and he needs an assistant with each of the matches out on the course. They’re the captain’s eyes and ears.

    Furyk would need to weigh whether Woods’ potential impact as a vice captain – by all accounts he’s the best Xs-and-Os specialist – is worth more than the few points he could earn on the course. Could he adequately handle both tasks? Would dividing his attention actually be detrimental to the team?

    “That would be a bridge we cross when we got there,” Furyk said.

    If Woods plays well enough, then it’s hard to imagine him being left off the roster, even with all of the attendant challenges of the dual role.

    “It’s possible,” Furyk said, “but whether that’s the best thing for the team, we’ll see.”

    It’s only February, and this comeback is still new. As Furyk himself knows, a lot can change over the course of a year.

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    Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

    By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

    U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

    Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

    The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

    This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

    "This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

    Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

    "I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

    The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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    Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

    By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

    The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

    But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

    "Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

    Hard to argue with the result.