June 12, 2007
Written by C.N.
Golf fans will remember that up until recently, Michelle Wie could do no wrong. She jumped into the limelight as a 16 year old phenom and was touted as the female equivalent of Tiger Woods who would revolutionize the sport of women’s professional golf. I say up until recently because for various reasons — failing to win any major tournaments, wild inconsistency, and most recently, mysteriously withdrawing from a tournament in which she was in danger of being disqualified for playing so badly — as SI.com/Golf.com reports, criticisms about her are beginning to mount:
That the 17-year-old from Honolulu would walk out of the Ginn Tribute last week with only two holes left in the first round is suspicious enough. The LPGA Tour has a rule that nonmembers who don’t break 88 – and Wie was two bogeys away from that – cannot play again for the rest of the year. Worse yet was showing up at Bulle Rock on the weekend to hit balls. . . .
That didn’t sit well with the LPGA Tour’s biggest star – Annika Sorenstam – who happened to be the tournament host at the Ginn. “I just feel that there’s a little bit of lack of respect and class just to leave a tournament like that and then come out and practice here,” said Sorenstam, who soldiered on for four days despite returning from a back and neck injury. . . .
Sorenstam was quick to note that Wie received a sponsor’s exemption to the tournament. That means she was invited. The feeling on the LPGA Tour is that Wie has mistaken invitation for entitlement.
Only it is becoming apparent that Wie doesn’t see it that way. She opened her press conference Tuesday afternoon wanting to clarify a few issues from last week. One suspected there might be an apology to the tournament sponsors for a situation beyond her control. Instead, she explained when she injured her wrist during the tournament (first hole), how she injured her wrist in the first place (running in a park) and that she still wasn’t 100 percent. . . . .
Asked about Sorenstam’s criticism, Wie said nothing was said to her and she had nothing to say back. “I don’t think I need to apologize for anything,” she said.
The article goes on to conclude, “She is 17, but no longer a kid. There was a time the LPGA Tour needed Wie a lot more than Wie needed the LPGA Tour. That might not be the case anymore. People are far more willing to forgive a bad round than bad manners.”
I’m not much of a golf fan, although I do tend to follow how Tiger Woods is doing. Nonetheless, Michelle Wie is certainly no ordinary golfer. And I think that’s where the problem lies — on both sides. In other words, it was almost inevitable that people would become disappointed or even disillusioned with Michelle’s actual golf performance, since the expectations about her were so overwhelmingly high, even stratospheric. After all, she is only human.
Having said that however, the other part of this equation is that it seems as though Michelle also needs to understand that people expect a little more out of her than the ordinary golfer — on the links and off of them. More specifically, I’m certain she tries her best when she’s playing on the course, so like the article says, fans will forgive a bad performance on the course. But it’s a little harder to be sympathetic towards her when pulls out of a tournament claiming injury, only to be back hitting balls two days later.
In other words, the appearance that people are seeing is that she’s taking advantage of, and taking for granted, the special treatment she’s been receiving and acting like she can do whatever she wants without repercussions. Ultimately, it sounds like Michelle needs a little more humility. We can be patient if an athlete is struggling with his/her performance on the field, but as recent cases regarding inappropriate behavior by professional athletes show, how an athlete conducts him/herself off the field is increasingly become much more important.
Michelle is, after all, only 17 years old and only human. That being said, I hope she can be honest with herself and her sport before she ends up as an underachieving and ostracized castoff in the trash heap of sports history.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Michelle Wie’s Recent Problems" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/06/michelle-wies-recent-problems/> ().
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