Worse, the criticism in some quarters is turning mean and ugly.
Michelle Wie is the 14-year-old prodigy from Hawaii who, among other things, finished fourth in the LPGAs Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this year and almost made the cut at the PGA Tours Sony Open in Hawaii.
Yet the USGA, the organization that granted the special exemption, is being harshly criticized for its action. And the tenor of some of the criticism has grown mean-spirited.
Like Tiger - but even more so - Wie is the subject of some pretty far-fetched rumors, USGA executive director David Fay revealed to The Golf Channel in an E-mail. And as was the case with Tiger, some of the Wie-bashing letters/e-mails Ive received have the rotten smell of racism, Im sorry to say.
Im sorry to hear.
The fact of the matter is that Michelle Wies parents have a huge talent for a daughter. They also have a daughter for a daughter; a 14-year-old girl who has done nothing to generate or deserve this kind of backlash.
The Wies are currently navigating their way through the dangerous and uncharted (for them) waters of stardom. Estimates have run as high as $50 million dollars for the amount of endorsement money Wie could sign for if she decided to turn professional tomorrow.
If you imagine that B.J. Wie, Michelles father, gets a lot of phone calls these days, you would imagine correctly.
Earlier this year Fay visited with Wies parents in Hawaii. He had had a similar visit with Earl Woods, Tigers father, while Tiger was still an amateur.
My visit with the Wies was very cordial, Fay said. Lasted about two and a half hours.
It has been suggested that Fay was ordered to make the trip.
Nope, it was my suggestion that I travel to Hawaii to offer to the Wie parents what I offered to Earl Woods, which he took me up on: Review of amateur status code nuancesVery worthwhile trip.
Its safe to say that I was a prime pusher for the Wie exemption, Fay continued. Why? If she had cashed the checks this year in her three events competing against the best (LPGA), shed be somewhere around 25th on the money list. And we exempt the top 35 from the LPGA money list (2004) through May 26.
For me it was a no-brainer decision based on her performanceHeck, if the USGA doesnt look after fine performances by amateurs, who will?
Fay, in my opinion, is on the mark here. Many LPGA players, while praising Wies game and personality, have decried the exemption.
The fact is this: If Wies learning and improvement curves continue apace, she will become the Tiger Woods of womens golf. Securing her presence in their event will be every tournament directors main goal. The rest of the world will pay more attention to womens golf. Annika Sorenstam will have a new challenge. Purses will grow.
We should not be resisting the force that Michelle Wie will soon become.
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