One Wie or Another

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Forget, for a moment, the scores. Don't get too hung up this summer looking at Michelle Wie's numbers. She will go low. She will stumble.
 
Mostly she will inspire the kind of awe that emerged from seasoned observers who watched this 13-year-old golf prodigy win the U.S. Public Links championship earlier this month in Florida.
 
Pay attention to her swing. And her power. And her ability to 'flight' the golf ball according to what the conditions dictate. Notice how she is able to shape the ball from right to left when needed and left to right when needed. Watch her around the greens. See how firm the wrists remain on her putting stroke. Look at her set-up--it's eerily similar to Ernie Els'-- whose address position may be the best in the game.
 
Realize there is more than one reason Tom Lehman called her 'The Big Wiesy.' Hope this girl from Hawaii who hasn't even entered high school yet continues to play the game with a joy and an innocence. Understand that she is already six feet tall with a build that is both supple and powerful with room for fine tuning from a personal trainer at the appropriate time in her physical development.
 
And know that Michelle Wie is the future of women's golf. Maybe even the future of golf, period. That having been said, take a deep breath. And cut this girl a little slack. I repeat, don't get hung up on the scores.
 
The speculation on Michelle Wie's future--short, medium and long range--is growing in volume by the day. Nobody is suggesting she should turn professional tomorrow. She says she wants to go to college first. And her parents appear to have her best interests at heart (although there are critics who say her tournament schedule this summer that includes playing in two men's events, is a bit ambitious.)
 
But analyst Bob Williams of Burns Sports Celebrities in Illinois predicts there may soon come a time when 'the money may just be too much to pass up.'
 
How much money? Williams, whose estimates in the past have proven highly reliable, says that if Michelle Wie wanted to sign a contract tomorrow with an equipment company like Nike, she could command a deal that would pay her between $6- and $8 eight million a year for five years.
 
'We've never seen anything like her in golf before,' Williams says. 'The sky's the limit.'
 
Williams points out that Tiger Woods didn't really burst onto the national scene until he was close to 20 years old. Wie, he says, is a generation ahead of Tiger.
 
He said he won't be surprised if an ambitious company first recruits her father, who now serves as her caddie. Once on the payroll, the parent could then be expected to guide the child in that company's direction. It happened with Woods' father, the redoubtable Earl.
 
Basketball's Lebron James, still a teen, has signed a deal worth close to $100 million with Nike, according to estimates. Last year, tennis' Venus Williams signed an endorsement deal worth $8 million a year. Her sister, Serena, will get more than that when she re-ups.
 
The equipment companies have become more selective in tougher economic times. But the right athlete can still command an ark full of money. Michelle Wei is one of those athletes. Let's hope she signs at the time that is right for her and not necessarily right for somebody else.
 
'She's going to be a trailblazer,' Williams says. 'We haven't had this before.'
 
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