No 9 Million Reasons for Wie to Smile

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2005 Stories of the Year - #9Editor's note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 stories from the 2005 golf season. This is Story No. 9.
 
The year began with her missing a cut, this one by six shots, and ended with her missing another cut by one. Along the way she was disqualified in her first-ever appearance as a professional.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie will face the ladies -- and men -- as a professional in 2006.
But oh, the tournaments in between 12 events in all, four mens events, second or tied for second in three tournaments, tie for third in another. All this from a young woman who was only 15 years old most of the year. Michelle Wie didnt turn 16 until Oct. 11.

On Oct. 5th, though, the young lady from Honolulu turned professional. It ended a guessing game for the media, for interested golf spectators, and numerous corporations who dreamed of having her endorse their product. Michelle Wie decided it was time to play for pay, and now the young woman is headed for destinations unknown.
 
Is it the LPGA? Is it the PGA Tour? Is it somewhere else, perhaps a combination of the PGA Tour, LPGA, European and Asian tours? Or, will Wie flame out with a spectacular flare, plummeting to earth with a deafening thud?
 
Yes, it was an unforgettable year for the Panahou High School student. Shes now the wealthiest 11th-grader in Hawaii. Endorsers showered her with an estimated $9 million ' the largesse heaped on her by Nike clubs and golf balls and electronics giant Sony. Her take for her first year of play is expected to be approximately $11 million, with appearance fees and additional corporate endorsers adding to whatever she earns from tournament purses.
 
'I'm finally happy to say I'm a pro starting today,' Wie said. 'The first time I grabbed a golf club, I knew I'd do it for the rest of my life. Some 12 years later, I'm finally turning pro, and I'm so excited.'
 
Wie, who is represented by the William Morris Agency, immediately pledged $500,000 to the U.S. Golf Hurricane Relief Fund, set up by the major golf organizations, to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.
 
It has been an outstanding year for Michelle professionally as well as in her personal life. She continues to excel in the classroom at Punahou. And she has made the cut in her last 16 LPGA events dating to 2003, and would have earned about $640,870 on the LPGA had she not been an amateur. That would put her 13th on the money list in only seven starts.
 
And, shes getting closer and closer to success on the mens tours. She reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. And in her last two professional mens outings, she had the cut made until deep in the second round when a series of late miscues doomed her.
 
The year had begun for Wie on something of a downer' she didnt play particularly well, by pro standards, in the Sony Open near her home in Hawaii. She shot 75 the first day, 74 the second, and missed the cut in the PGA Tour event by six shots.
 
Michelle came close to a win at the first LPGA tournament, the SBS Open in Hawaii. There she shot three consecutive 70s to finish in a tie for second place, two shots behind winner Jennifer Rosales.
 
Her next two tries, a tie for 12th at the Safeway International and a tie for 14th at the Kraft Nabisco, were nothing of note. But at the McDonalds LPGA Championship ' an LPGA major - she again played brilliantly, finishing in second by herself this time, three strokes behind winner Annika Sorenstam.
 
Like any person who has achieved a great deal of fame, though, Michelle is well aware that many people are anti-Wie. I'm not the kind of person who will back down because people don't want me here and stuff like that, she said at McDonalds. I'm having fun. I'm not really sure that I get a lot of extra attention, but if I do, that's great. If I don't, that's OK. I'm just really having fun out there.

Wie took a turn again at challenging the gents when she teed it up in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. If she could win it ' which seemed only a remote chance ' she would achieve her lifelong dream of playing in the Masters. And she came much closer than anybody had dared dream, winning three matches before finally losing in the quarterfinals to eventual winner Clay Ogden.
 
Michelles highest finish ever in a professional tournament came at the 2005 McDonalds. And it looked as if she might go all the way to the top when she found herself tied for the lead after three rounds at the U.S. Womens Open. How could someone just 15 years of age be doing so well in a U.S. Open?
 
Michelle Wie
Wie's first event as a pro created quite a controversy.
When I am out there on the golf course, said Wie, I completely forget my age. I don't think anyone really remembers their age, you know - everyone that I know wants to be older than their age right now. So out on the golf course I am a golfer, trying my best.
 
Alas, Sunday was a day of reckoning. Michelle shot an 82, but after the day was finally over, she could still enjoy a little humor.
 
I haven't played this bad in a long time, she said, so I definitely learned a lot of things from today. One of the things I definitely have to get is a GPS for my ball, because it was lost out there today. I mean, put a magnet in the ball or something, because that thing was not going towards the hole.
 
Then came the PGA Tour again, when she was offered a sponsors exemption by the John Deere Classic in July. She put in a solid effort Thursday with a 1-under 70, and was sailing inside the cut line by one when disaster struck her on the 15th hole ' No. 6 ' Friday.
 
It began when she pulled her tee shot into a bunker and then she compounded that error with a three-putt for a double bogey. And, at the next hole ' her 16th ' she also made bogey. Michelle finished with a 71, missing the cut by two shots.

'It was pretty killer,' she said. 'Even though I finished below par, it still feels (bad) because I played so well the first nine and then I just totally messed up the back nine.'
 
At the LPGAs Evian Masters, played in France, she rebounded beautifully to finish again in second place. She was not pleased, however, because she was still eight shots behind the winner, Paula Creamer.
 
I just left so many shots out there, said Wie. I couldn't count how many putts I missed. It's pretty frustrating, but otherwise I'm pretty happy with the way I hit it. I came back yesterday and today and I felt like I improved over those so, it went pretty well.
 
She was still going strong when the next tournament rolled around the following week ' this time another major, the Weetabix Womens British Open. An opening round of 75 in windy, cold and rainy weather put her far behind, but her three final rounds of 67-67-69 meant she would tie for third.
 
We didnt hear from Michelle for several months while she returned to high school in Hawaii. When she surfaced again, she had turned professional. And then, in her first event as a pro, she learned a very painful ' if very valuable ' lesson. Wie learned all about disqualifications.
 
It was at the LPGAs Samsung World Championship, and Michelle got around for four days with a 70-65-71-74 score, which WOULD have been good for fourth place. WOULD have been, if it werent for an incorrect drop she was ruled to have taken Saturday.
 
Officials said that she dropped closer to the hole on No. 15 at Bighorn Golf Club near Palm Springs, Calif. Michael Bamberger of Sports Illustrated magazine observed the drop and on Sunday questioned an official about it. The official reviewed what he could determine were the facts, then reluctantly disqualified Wie.
 
Wie was stunned, but said she had learned a valuable lesson. From now on, she said, Im going to call a rules official, no matter what it is. Three inches or 100 yards is the same thing. I respect that.
 
The year ended with Michelle taking advantage of a sponsors invitation to another mens event, the Casio World Open in Japan. And again it was a heartbreaking missed cut, Wie missing by just one shot when she made bogey on her final two holes.
 
The future may resemble a skyscraper, growing by leaps and bounds to insurmountable heights. Or, it may resemble a meteor, flaming out after a few impressive performances. But one thing is for certain - 2005 was a skyscraper year.
 
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review
  • Michelle Wie's Bio
  • Sony Open Coverage
  • U.S. Women's Open Coverage
  • John Deere Classic Coverage
  • Wie Disqualified in Pro Debut