Au Contraire - Wie Says She Is Quite Happy

By George WhiteOctober 14, 2004, 4:00 pm
For the first time in her 15 years on this earth, Michelle Wie was clearly agitated by a reporters question. She was responding to an innocent query, one that sums up all the negativity about her golfing career in one sentence. It is paraphrased like this:
Arent you cheating yourself out of one of childhoods most enjoyable experiences by repeatedly coming out to professional golf tournaments and competing against the pros?
It made her angry. For once, she was not the shy little teen-ager, yes maaming and no maaming and giggling over yet another silly question about her junior high curriculum. This one hit a raw nerve, one that has been hammered on repeatedly this year. She dove into it with a vengeance.
I mean, Im not stupid enough that I would not enjoy myself coming out here, she said. Im not really that stupid. If Im not enjoying myself, I wouldnt be coming out here and I wouldnt be playing.
Im having a great time. Im having really fun. I have friends out here and I really enjoy coming out here, and its kind of fun missing school. Im having a lot of fun traveling with my family. I also think its good Im not out here full time because I kind of get sick of one thing. Its nice to get home and get my mind off golf and then come here focused.
She is in the Palm Springs area this week preparing to play in the Samsung World Championship. Michelle has absolutely polarized the golf world with the tidal wave of publicity that surrounds her. Half appreciate what she is doing with her golf, love the girlish manner in which she speaks, think she is an absolutely adorable kid. The other half are sick of reading about her ' period. Nothing against her personally, but they feel any mention of a word that begins with a W and ends in IE is one word too many.
But Michelle is getting accustomed now to being at the center of controversy. Her father, some say, is a publicity-hungry pusher. She should go back and just enjoy the ninth grade, others say, and show up again in eight years or so. And all of the naysayers are saying she hasnt taken the initial step yet ' which is learning how to win. Learn to win against your own age-group and then you can learn to win against much stronger competition.
Well, you know I get that, said Wie. And then she launched into a mini-biography.
I played junior golf, she said. I didnt just start golf and then play in the LPGA.
Ive been playing junior golf tournament since I was nine until like 12 years old, for three years. Nobody knows about that because there are no cameras at junior golf tournaments. I did work my way up. I played in the 9-10 year old level and I did win those before I went to the other group.
Then after a while you win every tournament in a row. You no longer feel the desire to go anymore. With my kind of (temperament), you cant stay in one place too long. I just want to try something new. I had the Monday qualifying and I did what Tiger told me to do. Start small and go up. I did play junior golf and I did win tournaments.
Maybe we are being too hard on a kid who is still in school in Honolulu, who is as normal as one can be when shes not playing golf. Maybe we are being too harsh on her parents, who have squired her to numerous professional events around the globe the past two years. She still seems like a kid to me, one that may be six feet tall and can loop a golf ball 300 yards ' but still just a child.
She is an honor student whos studying Japanese, conceptual physics, trigonometry, English, Asian history and foundation art. She is a kid who loves to hang out at the mall with her schoolgirl friends, who does her best to get away from the game when it is time to do other things.
Golf is time consuming, she said, but I dont play golf for 24 hours. Outside of golf it doesnt take much for me think about something else. Well, if I had time and money I would go to a mall. I dont really like window shopping. I like to buy things. My friends and I go to the mall and hang out and go to movies and stuff.
Davis Love can appreciate what she is going through. He can relate to it because he has a daughter who was 15 a year ago.
She wants to be older than she is, he said, speaking of his daughter but describing every other 15-year-old in the universe.
At almost 40 years old, you sit back and think, When I was 15, I wanted to be 25. When I was 25. I wanted to be 14.
Its hard to get that perspective when youre 15 years old. You always want to be older than you are and do things older people do. But when you are older, you always say, Why was I in such a hurry to do things that were beyond me?
It remains to be seen whether Michelle Wie is trying to do things that are truly beyond her. But thus far she has taken it all in stride and not blinked, even once. People are still waiting for her to crack under the pressure. But she is still competing, still smiling, still full of wonder.
Those who dislike the attention given her are going to have to endure for a long time to follow. And those who adore her can rejoice for the same reason. We have only seen the beginning.
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