They were tears of joy.
This week means so much to her.
At 23, Wie is battling to find the promise that made her such a popular and polarizing figure in the women’s game. She didn’t qualify for this American team, and she knows there is a legion of critics who think she didn’t deserve one of Meg Mallon’s two captain’s picks. She knows it without having to read newspapers, magazines, web sites or watching TV.
“I haven’t read anything,” Wie said Wednesday after her practice round at Colorado Golf Club. “Meg told me to stay away from it. I know there’s a lot of controversy surrounding it. There’s always controversy surrounding Solheim Cup picks, but I’m just so happy to be here that I frankly don’t really care.”
This week feels like it could be a crossroads for Wie.
This feels like a week that could re-vitalize her game and restore her lost confidence, or a week that could create deeper, darker doubts.
“It’s really corny, but I kept thinking that this was my Greg Norman-Adam Scott moment,” Mallon said.
Mallon believes in Wie, and she believes Wie can turn a successful week at the Solheim Cup into a resurgent run at all of her dreams. Mallon saw what it meant to Scott when he was slumping four years ago and Norman made him a Presidents Cup captain’s pick.
“I just feel like I believe in her so much, and believe in the player she is, and the person she is,” Mallon said. “And that, hopefully, this will be a stepping stone for her.”
It proved just that after Beth Daniel made Wie a controversial captain’s pick for Wie’s first Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms four years ago. Wie took the event by storm, going 3-0-1. She was so formidable, Hall of Famer Juli Inkster predicted that Solheim Cup performance would lead to Wie winning her first LPGA event before the year was out. Inkster was right. A little more than two months after the Solheim Cup, Wie won the first of her two LPGA titles.
Don’t misconstrue Mallon’s intentions, though. Mallon chose Wie because she believes she can help her win this Solheim Cup.
“It’s tough being a captain’s pick,” Mallon said. “There’s a lot of pressure that a player puts on herself being a pick. So Michelle Wie, for me, was a no-brainer in that position.
“She lives on this stage almost every day that she plays. So walking into this environment is not going to affect her. I needed another player like that on the team. I had three rookies already.”
If Wie’s career gets the same kind of bounce Scott got after his Presidents Cup pick, Mallon would be thrilled.
As a young phenom, Wie looked destined for greatness, perfectly designed to dominate the women’s game and take it to a new level of popularity. But there were injuries. There were competitive setbacks, something amiss with her putter and then her driver. There was a detour to Stanford to pursue her college degree while playing the LPGA. And there was controversy with every hard turn her career took. Whether it was criticism of her decisions to play PGA Tour events against men, or, even today, questions about the uber-involvement of her parents, Wie plays under more scrutiny than any other player in the women’s game.
Through it all, Wie has matured into a well-adjusted adult who has a life she values beyond golf. She has a perspective beyond the game. She has the wisdom of a player beyond her age. While her struggles have hurt her emotionally, and she cares desperately about becoming the player she dreamed of being, she keeps showing the ability to step outside her circumstance. She keeps showing there’s more to her than birdies and bogeys.
Still, Wie confesses she is still trying to understand how her life in the limelight is supposed to work.
“I’m still trying to figure it out,” Wie said. “Just like anyone who is young . . . but the one thing I do religiously is just stay away from everything. I don’t read anything. I don’t watch anything. But when I do come across something, it’s hard sometimes. It’s not easy. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s rainbows and sunshine every day. It’s tough being a professional golfer, but it comes with the territory.
“And I just love the game. I love playing, and that’s what I really focus on. Weeks like this, it reminds me how much I love playing golf.”