Yes Wie Can.
Yes, she did, even if the road was filled with one surprise after another.
The 19-year-old from Hawaii looked to be on the fast track when she qualified for her first LPGA event at age 12. Wie played in the final group of a major at 13, shot 68 on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open a year later, had a share of the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Womens Open at 15 and shared the lead on the back nine of three straight majors soon after getting a drivers license.
Equally amazing was her downfall.
First came the wrist injuries in 2007, and shattered confidence as she tried to play hurt and couldnt break par. That led to Q-School, where the cant miss teen could not afford to fail.
Despite starting with three straight bogeys and failing to hit a green in regulation until the sixth hole, Wie steadied herself at LPGA International and made it comfortably.
This is a good test, swing coach David Leadbetter said. Theres a lot of jingled nerves, and she has performed nicely.
For someone who had been taking handouts longer for one-third of her life ' 53 exemptions or invitations out of 62 events ' Wie felt earning her card was among her greatest achievements.
Finally, she can tee it up on the LPGA and feel as though she belongs.
I really earned it, Wie said. I legitimately went through Q-school ' went through the first stage, went through the second stage ' and I really got it. Its like high school graduation.
The valedictorian was former NCAA champion Stacy Lewis, who had to go through Q-school because the LPGA does not count earnings from the U.S. Womens Open, where she tied for third in her pro debut. Lewis birdied her last two holes for a 69, giving her a three-shot victory over Amy Yang.
I had the door shut on me a couple of times, but they cant do it anymore, Lewis said.
Lewis finished at 18-under 342.
Wie said she will return to Stanford for the winter quarter, but plans a full LPGA schedule next year. Without being a member, she was limited to six LPGA events, plus the U.S. Womens Open and Womens British Open.
I play whenever I want now, not when I have to play, or only six tournaments, she said. Im going to take advantage of this card.
But she hasnt ruled out playing against the men.
Wie has not made the cut in eight tries on the PGA Tour, where she twice shot 68 in the Sony Open to set the record for lowest score by a female competing against the men. She has played six other mens events, making only one cut in South Korea.
I still want to purse that, she said. Im the kind of person where if I start out and want to pursue it, Im going to do it. Ive always wanted to do it since I started golf.
Next up is two days of LPGA orientation, a final at Stanford on Wednesday, then home to Honolulu for the holidays where she plans to be a beach bum for seven days.
All that mattered on Sunday, where the 15 mph wind and temperatures in the 50s made for a chilly start, was finishing in the top 20. Wie figured she was in good shape after settling down with a diet of fairways-and greens, but she still felt anxious walking toward the 18th green and looking at the lone leaderboard on the Champions course at LPGA International.
I was like, I just need to see three letters on that leaderboard, she said.
The name Wie was toward the bottom, hidden by a gallery never before seen at LPGA Q-School.
As much as Wie needed her membership card, the LPGA desperately needs a player like Wie, especially with Annika Sorenstam stepping away from competition. The gallery was close to 500 people, enough to surround the 18th green when Wie knocked in a 4-foot par putt to complete her most important test in golf.
It seems so long ago when Tom Lehman nicknamed her the Big Wiesy because her swing reminded him of Ernie Els; when she was atop the leaderboard of three straight LPGA majors at age 16 without winning; when she reached the quarterfinals of the mens U.S. Amateur Public Links as a 15-year-old during an unfathomable quest of qualifying for the Masters.
With an LPGA card in hand, Wie is all about the future.
You will never be who you were when you were 14 or 15, she said. You move forward. Im a completely different person now.