[SPORTS} Michelle Wie - Golfer
- She's Not Even Close to Shooting Her Age
Now we know what Michelle Wie does in her spare time. She lies in
bed and watches whatever is on television. We already know what the
13-year-old does on the golf course. She tears it up.
Wie is in third place with one round left in the LPGA's first major
of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Rancho Mirage.
What she did Saturday at Mission Hills was shoot a 66 and tie the
lowest round by an amateur in an LPGA major.
Let's put this in perspective. Caroline Keggi did it at the Nabisco
Dinah Shore in 1988 when she was 22 and Carole Semple-Thompson did
it at the 1994 U.S. Open when she was 46.
However, this is the first time it has been done by an eighth-grader.
Wie's father says Michelle can win today.
"Why not?" B.J. Wie said.
All she needs to do is repeat Saturday's round. And after her six-
birdie, no-bogey breeze, who's to say she can't?
Even Michelle had to admit she's surprised how well she has played
through three rounds. It's a stunning achievement for Wie, all
right, but what does it say about the LPGA when a 13-year-old plays
better than 97 of the 99 players who entered this major championship?
It's not Wie's fault that she's showing up most of the best female
pros in the world. All she wants to do is play a little golf and
have an answer for her friends back home in Honolulu when school
starts Tuesday and they ask what she did over the spring break. They
don't follow golf on TV, she said.
It's clear that Wie is wise beyond her years and might even have the
game to back it up. For instance, the par-four 16th is a dogleg
right. Wie chose a more direct approach, blasting a drive over a 100-
foot eucalyptus tree at the right corner. Her drive was estimated at
At the 526-yard 18th, Wie drove over a corner of the lake on the
left, her target between two palm trees, and had 225 yards left to
the pin. After a drive that measured 301 yards, she played it safe,
laid up and just missed a six-footer for birdie.
We know she has smarts and game, which comes as no surprise to her
instructor. Gary Gilchrist of the Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton,
Fla., remembers the first time he saw Wie swing in Hawaii last year.
"I was in shock," he said.
No one should be now, not after the way Wie has handled the pressure
of her first major played on a difficult course where 10 over par
was the cut line.
Gilchrist admires Wie's composure, her focus, and in all
probability, the financial windfall should she become a full-time
paying client. After all, it's still a business, even if it's about
a 13-year-old whose next goal is to play on her high school team
Also, she needs to study hard because she's taking honors courses in
algebra, biology and Chinese.
Wie wants to try to qualify to play the U.S. Amateur, the U.S.
Junior Amateur, the U.S. Public Links and the U.S. Open. She
wouldn't mind trying to qualify for the British Open, but she
doesn't have a passport.
Once Wie finishes high school, her next move is set. She's going to
college, she hopes it's Stanford, and B.J. says Michelle will stay
for four years. That way she can tell her children how important
school is, says B.J.
Meanwhile, B.J. says it's important to allow Michelle to grow up on
her own timeline. She is mature on the golf course, but different at
home, he says. In her house, Michelle acts like a 6-year-old
sometimes and, he says, "Her mind is very young." An only child,
Michelle is comfortable sleeping in the same room as her parents.
This week, she is sharing a king-sized bed with both her father and
mother, according to B.J., who said he usually winds up sleeping on
And when she tees it up today, Michelle will share the last group
with leader Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Annika Sorenstam. Wie says
she doesn't expect to feel any pressure.
What she has to do is simply play golf, she said, then started
breaking down that task into such elements as hitting the ball well,
putting well, chipping well and everything else, which must be the
It is, she said, just a game.
Fair enough. It certainly has been child's play this week.