History Negativity and Wie

By Mercer BaggsJune 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
Editors note: The Golf Channel will provide in-depth coverage of Michelle Wies attempt to qualify for the mens U.S. Open, including detailed, hole-by-hole results on TheGolfChannel.com; as well as well as TV updates every half hour, beginning at 10:00 a.m. EDT; and a complete recap of the historic day, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
 
Michelle Wie. Phew. I havent written that name in three weeks. What a relief. Ive been holding that one in like a dirty little secret.
 
Of course, as you well know, Wie will be attempting to become the first female player to qualify for a mens major championship this Monday. Shes one of 153 hopefuls at Canoe Brook Country Club, vying for 18 spots into the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.
 
I will be on site in Summit, N.J., along with just about every other member of the golfing media, following on foot all 36 holes.
 
But before I dive right into the pool of possibilities, I want to first apologize for not replying to everyone in the aftermath of my most recent Wie column. I try to always respond to each and every e-mail, even the most negative, because I feel its my obligation to do so ' if you take the time out of your day to read what I write and respond to it, then I can certainly offer you the same courtesy.
 
But if I did so this time, I would have had to completely shirk all my other duties for a week in order to get back to everyone.
 
My Inbox was over-capacitated, filled like Stephen Hawkings mind. Needless to say, Michelle Wie touches a nerve in many a golf fan.
 
Surprisingly, most of the e-mails I received were very negative. In fact, there were only a few notes in support of her ' not just in her attempt to qualify for a mens major, but in relation to her on the whole.
 
And since I didnt have the time to do so then, Ill do so now; in the words of Jules Winfield: Well, allow me to retort.
 
There seemed to be some congruous streams of thought in the many, many e-mails I received. For one, most repliers felt overwhelmingly that Wie should compete against women and only women.
 
To this I ask, why? Why should she allow her gender to limit against whom she wants to compete? I understand the argument that she should perhaps play more events on the LPGA Tour and try and win a few ' winning will only make her a stronger, better player.
 
But why say that she shouldnt compete against men in general simply because she is a woman? If I had a daughter and she could throw a baseball 90 mph, I wouldnt discourage her from playing on the boys baseball team, instead telling her that she needs to play softball with the girls. She might not be as dominant against the boys and she might not win nearly as often, but I would most certainly want her to test herself to the greatest degree and maximize her abilities. Most importantly, I would want her to enjoy herself and do that which makes her happy.
 
Its absolutely senseless to ask Wie to limit herself, because youre doing so based on the boundaries of your own beliefs and feelings, not hers. The wins will come in time ' and they will come. Shes only 16 years old. Let her make her own way in this world. Unless Wie playing exclusively on the LPGA will lower the price of gas, I really dont care where she plays.
 
Another overriding theme was that Wie receives too many sponsors exemptions and should have to qualify if she wants to play against the men. I can understand this to a certain degree. I even think that she should have had to qualify for the U.S. Womens Open. She was offered an invitation based on the fact that she would have qualified via the LPGA money list if she was a member. But thats the point ' shes not a member. She could be. She might not be 18, the age of official acceptance on tour, but if she had petitioned commissioner Carolyn Bivens for early membership, Bivens wouldnt have let her finish her question before handing her a tour badge. Since shes not a tour member, she shouldnt be granted the rights of a tour member. Thats one of the drawbacks to being a freelance golfer.
 
But, tournament officials have the right to invite whomever they want to their event. I understand that the USGA is just covering their back, avoiding any and all possibility of a flukish Wie failure at sectional qualifying. The USGA wanted to guarantee the Wie spectacle.

Which brings us to your next argument: there is too much media attention given to someone who has never really won anything of note. Again, I hear where youre coming from, but I dont entirely agree with it. True, her only real accomplishment is winning the 2003 U.S. Womens Public Links Championship. But you cant deny that she is special. She can hit the ball longer than many men. If you ever watched her play in person, her talent is immediately evident. And more important than the fact that she is a she, she is only 16. Wie shouldnt be anointed the Queen of Golf just yet, but theres so much promise and potential that its hard not to get a little too wrapped up in it all.
 
It can be a little too much at times, I know, but were talking about a sport which on a weekly basis can be more bland than talking about house siding. Wie is something different. Shes a dose of Tabasco.
 
Golf is a measure of routine. Too many people are bothered by anything out of the ordinary. And Michelle Wie is anything but ordinary.
 
Would you rather watch Jeff Maggert beat Tom Pernice, Jr. and Kris Cox at the FedEx St. Jude Classic or watch Wie try and make history at Canoe Brook?
 
Many might answer the former, but I dont buy it. A recent poll on our homepage showed that over 70 percent of those who voted said that they had no interest in Wie and her quest to qualify for the U.S. Open. Balderdash, I say!
 
You dont vote unless you care. And I wouldnt have received 20 times the normal response to my articles if you didnt care.
 
You might not want her to qualify. You might want her to fail. But thats still caring.
 
The final point of interest that was expressed by a few readers was: if women can play in mens events then men should be able to play in womens events.
 
Thats the most ridiculous thing Ive ever heard. Id sooner believe that reality TV is real, that Barry Bonds head is a normal size than to believe that. As I said to one e-mailer, you dont demote yourself from one tour to another just to better your odds of winning. A weak field full of professional men is stronger than the best field full of professional women. The field against which Wie competed in South Korea didnt have one recognizable name it, but it still had more skilled players than the field for the upcoming McDonalds LPGA Championship.
 
Thats not chauvinism; thats fact. Whats chauvinistic is to say that women, who might have the ability to do so, shouldnt compete against men because they are women. And whats absurd is to say that men, who play on a superior tour, should be able to compete against women in the name of fairness.
 
I could go on and on about this topic, but it doesnt deserve any more space.
 
Speaking of the McDonalds, Wie is competing in N.J., because the LPGAs second major, one in which she received a special exemption to compete, is being held in nearby Maryland. Were it not for that proximity, Wie might very well have taken her chances once again in Hawaii, where a sectional qualifier is being held with 10 non-descript players fighting for one spot. It would have been similar to her local qualifying scenario, where Wie was one of 39 players in Hawaii, mostly locals, going for three spots into the sectionals.
 
I wrote prior to those 18 holes that I felt that Wie should easily make it through, and she did, earning medalist honors. I also wrote that I felt that she should have a good chance at making it through the sectionals as well. At the time, it was believed that there would be in the neighborhood of 25-30 available spots into the U.S. Open. There are now only 18. It might not sound like much, but thats a massive reduction. It could mean as much as a two-stroke difference ' the difference between needing a 68 over her final 18 instead of a 70.
 
Wie is going up against, by my count, 19 different PGA TOUR winners, including a pair of past major champions; not to mention a host of proven TOUR regulars and a great number of winners from various other tours around the world.
 
The odds are against her, and the odds to begin with are statistically less than 12 percent for her to qualify.
 
But if she does, if she plays the best golf of her life ' which is what it will take 'then it will be a most impressive feat, more impressive than if she actually won the McDonalds at the end of the week.
 
And if she doesnt, then so be it. Good try and nice effort. There will be a next time.
 
There will be a lot of next times.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
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