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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Michelle Wie: The wonder woman of golf

Name: Michelle Wie

Born: 1989

Residence: Honolulu, Hawaii

Turned professional: 10/5/2005

Career-best LPGA finish: 2

Career-low LPGA round: 65

Earnings (in LPGA events): $816,708

Earning (in other events): $17,901

Status: Professional golfer but not a member of any tour (including the LPGA).

Michelle Wie held a golf club for the first time when she was only four years old. At the moment, she knew that she just wanted to do it for the rest of her life and she did it and the rest of the world just kept watching her turning into a great golf player. Ever since she stepped into the golf circuit, she took away every one’s attention with her sheer talent. Unfortunately, this talented female golfer could not live up to people’s expectation. In her three year’s career as a professional golfer, she did not win any of the top tournaments. Still, Michelle Wie is the crowd puller in the golf field. Where ever she goes, every body follows. Now, Wie is competing in the on going LPGA Qualifying tournament and she is rapidly moving her pins on the golf course.

Michelle Wie is born in Honolulu to Korean parents. She graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu in June 2007. In September 2007, Wie enrolled in Stanford University. Since Michelle Wie is a professional golfer, she is not eligible to play for Stanford University’s golf team. In Mach 2008, sportsillustrated.com reported that Michelle Wie was dating Stanford University’s men’s basketball player, Robin Lopez. However, Michelle Wie denied the report in an interview with Orlando Sentinel on April 28, 2008. She said that they were just friends and the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

Interesting facts about Michelle Wie:

  • Both Michelle Wie’s parents are of above average heights. Her mother Hyun Kyong is 5′7″ and her father is 6′2″.
  • Michelle Wie began playing golf at the age of four.
  • Michelle Wie also gained attention for her golf swing. At the age of sixteen, when Michelle Wie became a professional golfer, she had an average drive of 280 yards.
  • In 2005, at the age of sixteen, Michelle Wie announced to become a professional golfer. However, the minimum age requirement to play on LPGA Tour is eighteen. Though Wie could have petitioned to participate in the tour, she waited another two years.
  • After turning pro, Nike and Sony signed Michelle Wie for more than $10 million per year. Wie pledged to contribute half a million dollars for Katrina victims.
  • Michelle Wie played her first professional event in April 2002. At that time, she was an amateur.
  • As an amateur, Michelle Wie never won a 72-hole stroke-play event. As a professional, she has no wins.
  • In Summer 2000, at the age of ten, Wie became the youngest player ever to qualify for the Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. For the next eight years the record remained unbroken. Allisen Corpuz, another female player from Hawaii, broke it. She was five months younger than Wie.
  • At the age of eleven, Michelle Wie shot her personal- best 64 from the 5400-yard tees at the Olomana Golf Links course in Hawaii.
  • At the age of twelve, Michelle Wie qualified for an LPGA event; the Takefuji Classic, where Michelle Wie missed the cut. She was the youngest player ever to do so and the record stayed till 2007. Later, Eleven year old Ariya Jutanugarn broke the record.
  • In 2006, Michelle Wie was named “one of 100 people who shape our world” in a Time magazine article.
  • In 2007, Forbes magazine ranked Michelle Wie at #4 in the list of Forbes’ Top 20 Earners below twenty five. At that time, Michelle Wie’s annual earnings stood at 19 million dollars.
  • Though Michelle Wie became a star, she performed poorly in the field. Golf observers started to criticize her efforts to play in PGA Tour through sponsor’s exemption. Till now, Wie made only one cut in a men’s tournament. She did not make any cut on the PGA Tour. Golf critics and fans started to doubt her abilities after she missed the cut at the 2007 Sony Open by shooting 14 over par. Seeing her poor performance, AP golf writer, Doug Ferguson, wrote that her nick name should be changed from “the Big Wisey to “the Big Queasy.” According to the rule, sponsors can offer four exemptions and these are offered to players who are very much popular and can draw more crowds. Since Wie can do it, they offered her exemptions and it was severely criticized. In 2008, Michelle Wie participated in the LPGA Qualifying tournament to earn her card for LPGA Tour 2009. Before that, she played on LPGA Tour on sponsor’s exemption.
  • Michelle Wie created controversies for rapidly changing her caddy. Till 2004, her father worked as her caddie. After that, she changed nine caddies. After acquiring 26th position at the 2006 British Open, Greg Johnston, her the then caddie, was fired over the phone by Michelle Wie’s the then agent, Ross Berlin. Johnston said that he was “surprised and disappointed.” For some time in 2007, Michelle Wie’s father worked as her caddie again. Then she hired David Clarke, whom she fired after she missed the cut at the 2007 British Open.
  • As a professional, Michelle Wie’s first event was the LPGA Samsung World Championship. She played on sponsor’s exemption. During the tournament, Wie forgot to sign her scorecard and got disqualified. A journalist also reported that Wie illegally dropped the ball closer to the hole than its original lie.
  • In July 2006, Michelle Wie played in the John Deere Classic. On the first day, she shot six over par. On the second day, before making to the ninth hole, she was eight over par. After playing the 9th hole, she withdrew from the game. It is said that she suffered from heat exhaustion.
  • In 2006, Michelle Wie played in the Weetabix British Open and tied for 26th position. In this tournament, she also created controversy for grounding her club in a bunker. Wie got a two-stroke penalty. Later in an interview, she said that she did not know the exact rule.
  • In 2007, Michelle Wie competed at LPGA’s Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika. In the first round of the tournament, Wie shot 14- over par through 16 holes. On May 31, 2007, she withdrew from the tournament. Before her withdrawal, LPGA officials discussed about her withdrawal on the ground of Rule#88. According to the rule, any non-LPGA member with a score of 88 must withdraw. The player will be banned from participating in any other LPGA event for the rest of the year. Interestingly, neither LPGA officials, nor Wie, stated that her withdrawal was in response to Rule#88. Wie said that the reason behind her withdrawal was the tweaking of her wrist in the middle of the round. Michelle Wie’s playing partners- Alena Sharp and Janice Moodie, also said that they observed uneasiness in her play. They also said that Wie withdrew because of her father’s advice. Such withdrawal is against the rules and would result in a two-stroke penalty. However, Wie did not face any penalty.
  • Fans and media also criticized about Michelle Wie’s clothing. The criticisms started to surface in the summer of 2004, when Wie was fourteen years old. The criticism increased after she started to wear dresses provided by Nike in 2006.
  • The wrist injury of Michelle Wie is also shrouded in mystery. It is said that Wie hurt her wrist in 2007 during a fall while she was running. When asked by the media, her family members did not give out any details regarding the nature of the injury. They only said that Wie was wearing a hard cast. Immediately after the injury, her public relations stuff said that she would be away from golf for four to six weeks. This lack of information led fans and critics to think that Wie and her family members fabricated the story so that she could take a break. In April 2008, Wie said that she had three broken bones which was contradictory to her agent’s statement made in Mach 2007 which says that her wrist was not broken.

Michelle Wie career highlights:

  • In 2001, Michelle Wie advanced into match play at the Women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
  • In summer 2000, Michelle Wie participated in the Women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. In 2001, at the age of eleven, Michelle Wie won both the Hawaii State Women’s Stroke Play Championship and the Jennie K. Wilson Women’s Invitational. The later is known to be the oldest and most prestigious women’s amateur tournament in Hawaii.
  • In 2002, Michelle Wie won the Hawaii State Open Women’s Division by thirteen shots.
  • In 2003, Michelle Wie became the youngest player to get into an LPGA event at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. In the third round of the tournament, she had 6 below par which tied with the record for a women’s major championship. She went to the finals and competed with top players like Annika Sörenstam and eventual winner, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc.
  • A few months later, Michelle Wie had a great victory at the Women’s Amateur Public Links tournament. She became the youngest person ever (both male and female) to get into US Women’s Open. She was placed at 39th.
  • In 2004, Michelle Wie received sponsor’s exemption to play at Sony Open in Hawaii. She became the fourth female player to play in a PGA Tour.
  • In 2004, Michelle Wie also played on the U.S. Curtis Cup team. She became the youngest player ever to play in the team. She acquired fourth position in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Had she played as a professional that year, Michelle Wie could have earned US$250,000 from her tournament results.
  • Michelle Wie started her 2005 season by getting sponsor’s exemption to play in the PGA Tour Sony Open in Hawaii but she missed the cut again.
  • Michelle Wie then went on to play the LPGA Tour. She got the second position at SBS Open at Turtle Bay.
  • In June 2005, Michelle Wie acquired the second place at the LPGA Championship. She became the first golfer to qualify for a USGA national men’s tournament.
  • Michelle Wie then participated at the U.S. Women’s Open and played 69-73-72. She tied for the leading position till the third round but in the fourth round, she scored 82.
  • Michelle Wie then participated in the John Deere Classic and made her third attempt to cut at a PGA event. She missed the cut by two strokes.
  • In the Men’s Public Links, Michelle Wie played the top 64 strokes in the stroke play round to qualify for match play. She lost to Clay Ogden in the quarterfinals.
  • Michelle Wie then played in the Evian Masters and tied for the second position.
  • Michelle Wie then played in Women’s British Open and tied for third position.
  • Michelle Wie then played her second professional event at the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour. She scored 73-75 and missed the cut by shooting four over par.
  • In January 2006, Michelle Wie played at the PGA Tour Sony Open in Hawaii. She missed the cut by four strokes.
  • In February 2006, Michelle Wie was placed in the third by Rolex World Golf Rankings. She was behind Annika Sörenstam and Paula Creamer.
  • To open her first season on the LPGA, Michelle Wie earned US$73,227 by acquiring third place in the Fields Open in Hawaii. She was one stroke behind the winner.
  • Michelle Wie also competed in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She was again one stroke behind the lead and tied for third position. She earned $108,222.
  • In May 2006, Michelle Wie played on the Asian Tour Sk Telecom Open. After Se Ri Pak, Michelle Wie was the second women to get a cut at a men’s tournament in South Korea. Wie received US$700,000 appearance fees. For the two week trip, she earned a total US$5 million in appearance and endorsement money.
  • In May 2006, Michelle Wie appeared at the local qualifier for the Men’s U.S. Open. According to United States Golf Association, Wie was the first female medalist in a local qualifier. Wie made it to the final round and competed against 152 players.
  • In June 2006, Michelle Wie participated in the LPGA Championship. She tied for the fifth position. She was two strokes behind the lead.
  • Michelle Wie then participated in US Women’s Open and tied for third position. She was two strokes behind the lead.
  • In July 2006, Michelle Wie played in the LPGA vs HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship. Wie lost in the quarterfinal.
  • Fifteen days later, Michelle Wie played at the Evian Masters. She was one stroke behind the lead.
  • In September 2006, Michelle Wie played in the Omega European Masters on the Men’s European Tour. She acquired 157th position by finishing 15 over par in the first two rounds. She missed the cut by 14 strokes. Despite her poor performance, Wie drew a crowd of 9,500 spectators on the first day.
  • Year 2007 can be referred as the worst year in Michelle Wie’s career. She suffered from wrist injuries and it affected her performance although the year.
  • In January 2007, Michelle Wie accepted her forth sponsor’s exemption to the PGA tour. She participated in the Sony Open in Hawaii. Wie missed the cut by 14 strokes. For the next four months, Wie did not participate in any tournament.
  • At the end of June, Wie participated in the US Women’s Open but withdrew after making her second shot on the 10th hole. Her wrist injury was her main reason.
  • Michelle Wie then participated at the Evian Masters Tournament in late July 2007. In the tournament, she broke her year long streak of shooting at or over par by scoring one under par in the second round. Unfortunately, she shot 12 over par in the third round and went for a tie for 69th.
  • One week later, at the Women’s British Open, Michelle Wie shot 73 and 80 and missed the cut by two strokes. It was her first missed cut in an LPGA Tour since 2003 and her first missed cut in a major.
  • Michelle Wie then enrolled into Stanford University. Three weeks after starting her school, she played in the Samsung World Championship on sponsor exemption in the limited field. She acquired 19th position by finishing in 36 strokes behind the winner.

Remarks:

  • “Give her another couple years to get stronger, she can play on the PGA Tour.” (Ernie Els)
  • “When you see her hit a golf ball…there’s nothing that prepares you for it. It’s just the scariest thing you’ve ever seen.” (Fred Couples)
  • “She’s probably going to influence the golfing scene as much as Tiger, or more. She’s going to attract people that even Tiger didn’t attract, young people, both boys and girls, and families.” (Arnold Palmer)

Useful Links:

Wikipedia

LPGA

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