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Published: 8/15/2003

Wie getting opportunity to be great

Thirteen-year-old amateur Michelle Wie is being hyped as “the future of women's golf.”

Wie is on stage this week as the youngest participant in the history of the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic.

She's easy enough to spot. Follow the die-hard fans and curiosity seekers following her every move around Highland Meadows Golf Club.

They nudge each other and point at the tall girl with the ponytail. They call her “Michelle” while trying not to gawk.

As Wie's tee time approached yesterday afternoon, a bevy of spectators appeared out of nowhere and positioned themselves strategically around the 10th hole.

Wie plays a power game. She's more reliant on her athletic ability than on precision. She consistently hits drives that are longer than some of the players on the men's tour.

By the time Wie finally smacked the daylights out of the ball (it's true, she really does make contact like a man), the crush of people eyeing the flight of her drive was actually three and four-deep.

They didn't have to wait around for Wie to finish her round. They witnessed what they came to see.

Despite shooting two-over 73 yesterday, despite whatever you may think of Wie being too young and over-exposed, she has super-duper star power.

Wie's father B.J. saw this coming. Michelle picked up a golf club with serious intentions several years ago, and she shot a 64 at the age of 10.

Is B.J. Wie any different than Earl Woods, Tiger's father?

No. The two men are birds of a feather.

Earl believed from a very early age that Tiger would be great. Earl never protected Tiger from the spotlight.

B.J. Wie is giving Michelle every opportunity to be great.

She attends the best golf academies, learns from the best instructors and faces the best competition.

By the way, she'll be a freshman on her high school golf team in Hawaii.

She's still very much a kid who will experience all the emotional ups and downs of coming of age such as dating and what to wear to the prom.

Will she be able to focus completely on golf and block out everything else?

You remember last weekend, don't you? Wie was upset in the first round of match play at the U.S. Women's Amateur. She blamed the loss on poor putting.

Before that Wie had been on a roll, winning the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship in June and accepting sponsor's exemptions from five LPGA tournaments in addition to two men's events. She was one of 14 teenagers to compete in the U.S. Open.

I know it's tempting to get carried away with Wie's potential, which is substantial.

She's still getting by on her natural ability. The mental part of her game should flourish with time.

We can't seem to get enough these days of worshipping young, athletic phenoms years ahead of their time. Thanks a lot, LeBron James.

Precious few athletes reach their full potential - if the potential was ever there to begin with.

I'm going to be careful what I say here about Wie.

Is it going out on a limb to say that five or 10 years down the road, Wie will dominate women's golf? Maybe.

We do know she has the potential to be one of the all-time greats. Whether she is one of the rare ones to reach that potential remains to be seen.



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