Michele Wie–You Go Girl

LPGA Tour player Michele Wie won her first major professional golf championship 2.5 weeks ago at 24 years of age. She won on a great golf course–Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina–the week after the men’s U.S. Open was staged there. So, the course was in tip top, major championship condition. And Michele won it in grand style. She held off No. 1 LPGA player Stacy Lewis to win the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship. She’s finally coming into her own with her first major win.

Michele Wie was born in 1987 in Hawaii and reared there. Like Tiger Woods, she was a child prodigy at golf. In 2000 and at the age of ten, she became the youngest golfer to ever qualify for the U.S. Women’s Public Links Championship. The next year, at age eleven, she won the Hawaii State Women’s Stroke Play Championship. In 2003, she won the U.S. Women’s Public Links, again the youngest to do so and still the youngest age to ever win a U.S.G.A. adult competition.

Michele turned pro at sixteen years of age, two years before the requirement of eighteen to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in the U.S. She immediately started signing big endorsement contracts with sponsors such as Sony and playing the LPGA Tour with individual sponsors’ exemptions. Right away, at such a young age, she was having top-five finishes in some LPGA events.

So, the world of women’s professional golf had great expectations for Michele Wie. People thought she was going to be a female Tiger Woods. Like Tiger, she had a terrific golf swing. She soon started taking lessons from world-class golf swing instructor David Ledbetter, from South Africa. But I don’t think that had anything to do with her slump that started in 2006. She then sustained a wrist injury in 2007 which caused a necessary layoff and was a nagging problem for ensuing years. In 2009, Michele won her first LPGA event, in Mexico. In 2010, she won her second LPGA event, the Canadian Women’s Open. Her U.S. Open win last month was her fourth LPGA win.

Michele Wie must be very industrious. In 2012, she graduated from Stanford University, no slouch of a school, with a BA in communications. She did it in 4.5 years, taking a heavy load of 16-20 hours per semester. She attended classes in the Fall and Winter and played the Tour the rest of those years. Tiger Woods went to school at Stanford and didn’t graduate, so she’s one up on him in that department. (I almost went to Stanford instead of the University of Houston. I had a better offer for a golf scholarship at Stanford than I did at Houston.)

The next women’s major professional golf tournament is this week. Michele says she’s ready for it. It’s the Women’s British Open, and it’s being held at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England. I hope she wins it. “But watch out for that weather, Michele. If that wind gets to howling, you’ll need that stinger. And stay out of that ferocious heather. It’s worse than that ice plant you know about in California.”

I never played in the British Open. One year I was exempt and didn’t go. In my day, it was too expensive to do that and the tournament purse was so small. It was only worth it for the top players such as Palmer and Nicklaus due to subsequent endorsement possibilities for them if they won. However, I did play one tournament in the old country. It was the 1969 Carling World Open. And it was held at Royal Birkdale. What a treat it is to play golf on those great courses in the United Kingdom. The golf courses are different there and very interesting. Those old courses require shots that we don’t have to make on our lush, U.S. golf courses.

And oh, did I say anything about the weather? The wind not only howls there, but the combination of it and the cold rain is biting. I experienced it on the third round in that Carling World Open. I thought I played good golf that day, but I shot a 77. I was so frustrated I wanted to spit in that big blue ocean I flew over to get there. I then told my wife, “I’ll never come over here again to play in a golf tournament.” Well, that was right. I didn’t. However, the next and final day of the tournament it was a perfect, sunshiny day, and I shot 69. I then told my wife, “I’ve changed my mind. This is a nice place.”