Michelles Mission Is Something Special


So the question now becomes what do we make of this child Michelle Wie? Shes 13, nearly six feet tall, just knocks the balata off the ball, and plays golf almost like a professional. As a matter of fact, this summer she was almost a pro, playing in a succession of LPGA events, as well as a pair of mens events.
This week she hangs around the mainland to play one more event, the LPGAs Safeway Classic in Portland (Begins Fri. at 8:00PM ET on TGC), before she packs up the clubs and heads home to Honolulu. Not since the Jackson Five has a 13-year-old stirred up such a fuss.
Michelles Magnificent Summer has caused quite a controversy. Many people criticized her parents, perhaps rightly so, for shoving her onto the national scene to become a golfing idol at such a tender age. The critics seemed to have some good reasons ' after all, shes still a child, she needs time to mature, all this will still be there when she becomes a woman, etc., etc.
But maybe this requires a second look. Maybe ' just maybe ' shes got the maturity to handle it. And maybe ' and of much less importance at the moment ' shes got the golf game to handle it.
Does it astound you to even think that a 13-year-old can compete at such a high level? I dont know of anyone ' boy or girl ' who has ever been this good. Think of it, people ' she just played against the men of the Nationwide Tour, from the back tees, and she shot in the 70s both times! And shes barely a teen-ager?
Nancy Lopez weighed in last week on the subject, after playing in an exhibition with Wie, John Daly and Hank Kuehne. Lopez marveled at how composed and mannerly Michelle was, how far she has progressed with her golf game. And she also had this to say:
If I had a daughter her age, would I want her competing against guys? I wouldnt, this mother-of-three said. The reason I wouldnt is because shes not going to win ' I dont think. And I dont think she will even when she gets bigger and stronger.
If I had a daughter her age, I would want her to play all of her amateur golf she could play, win everything she can win. Thats making her get better, giving her confidence.
Nancy is exactly right about the confidence part. I have all the respect in the world for her, but I wonder if she didn't overstate the case just a little in this instance.
How much better is Wie going to get in Hawaii, playing against schoolgirls? Shes already beaten them ' soundly. She won the Womens Amateur Public Links championship in the States. She finished in the top 10 in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, an LPGA major. Maybe its time to move on.
Ive never been a parent to a 13-year-old, and obviously Nancy has. Ive never won 48 times on the LPGA Tour, and obviously Nancy has. Admittedly coming from the background of a novice, I think the advice sounded a little conservative. I dont think Lopez is necessarily wrong. But something says Wie might be a special case.
Nancy, though, isnt nearly as vociferous about Wie playing in pro tournaments as others have been. Some dont think she should be playing in these events at all. Some dont think she should be playing ' horrors! ' against the men, regardless of the setting.
Now, Mr. and Mrs. Wie seem like nice, average people. As far as I can tell, they havent got a case of Little League-itis, arent pushing Michelle to play when she doesnt want to. Michelle seems to live a normal life when shes at home, going to school just like any kid, enjoying shopping and listening to CDs and doing her homework.
The one thing that sets her apart is her golf. And if the kids at her school dont make a big fuss about it, then why should we? If she isnt missing too much schoolwork, why shouldnt she play wherever she wants? If her parents can afford the $70,000, then I say go for it.
This much youve got to admit - Michelle has out-of-this-world talent for a young teenager. If she had the same talent for acting or singing or playing the piano, would there still be naysayers? I dont know ' but it seems a shame not to give her the chance to excel. If her parents check with her frequently about what she wants to do, then she should be allowed to play as long as she wants and the finances hold out.
There cant be any doubt that her invitation to Boise last week was all for publicity. But so what ' as long as she doesn't get her confidence shattered. She is using Boise for her own experience, while Boise is using her to make a buck.
If she can at least stay on the course with the gents at this young age, whats she going to do in, say, five years? Her destiny will always be womens golf, but if shes invited, should she not dabble in the mens sport?
She's fortunate in that she lives in Hawaii, instead of California or Florida or Arizona. There isn't the great hubbub in the islands that would be foisted upon her in the mainland. She can still be 'just a girl' there.
A girl, though, who can bang out 300-yard drives? Everything you've heard about childrens' sports is about to be rewritten. Maybe we should consider child behavior, too. Michelle seems to be different.
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