In case you did not know, Michelle Wie is the 16 year old golfing phenom from Hawaii. She is blessed with incredible talent and is capable of driving the ball just as far as the men can. Oh, did I mention she was only 16? Aside from her incredible talent she also carries herself with great composure, she has a very telegenic smile and wonderful personality. So far she has already secured huge endorsement contracts and is set to be a fixture on the golfing scene for the next 30 years.
Oh, and she has yet to win a single tournament on the professional level.
I always operated on the mentality that one should at least have some kind of body of accomplishments before being handed the keys to the kingdom. That is no longer the case, just ask LeBron James. One of the problems with Wie is that she splits time between trying to qualify and win in men's tournaments and actually playing on the LPGA Tour.
Now let me get the gender issue out of the way first. I have no problem with women competing with men as long as the sport places them on equal footing in terms of physicality. In other words women should not play football, the physical differences such as the fact women are weaker than men percludes a woman from being able to play football at the same level as the men. The same is true of basketball and baseball. Golf is different. A woman(or in this case a girl) can obviously develop the skills and strength necessary to hit a golf ball the same distance as the men. There is no pronounced physical aspect of the game which gives a man a significant advantage over a woman. So as long as Wie earns her way into the tournament then she is free to play against the men.
This past week Wie made an effort to qualify for the U.S. Open and she was close but eventually failed in her bid. And while I have no problem with Wie trying to qualify or even playing in men's tournaments, I think that has become an obsession that may end up harming more than helping. Playing with the men is one thing, playing and winning is another and she needs to be doing that more right now.
There are two schools of thought here. One is that you should seek out competition or conditions which are superior to you and by playing against those you can continually raise the level of your game. The second thought is to play against comprable or even slightly weaker competition to get the experience of winning and gaining a sense of success as a confidence builder. Wie seems to be opting for more of the first school thought rather than the second. Having been a competitive runner I know the value of pushing your own limits against people who are better than you. That being said, had I opted to constantly have my butt handed to me over and over I would probably lack any real confidence despite the improvement I might see in my times. The competition I faced in high school provided me a perfect mix. I ran against comparable runners with 50/50 odds of winning, I faced guys who I had no prayer of beating but could at least hang behind to force myself to run faster. I also faced the cupcakes who I can beat handily. There was value is each of those situations for me, even when I was 300 meters ahead of the second place guy. Winning is one thing. Knowing how to win or understanding how to handle the pressure associated with pulling a win out of a tough competition is a totally different animal. Wie has little experience with learning how to win in a tough situation. Going on and playing the men may be good motivation to push the limits of her game but if she fails to develop confidence and a winning mentality I think it will weaken her as an all around player.
My advice to Wie(because we all know she checks out Tar Heel Fan every day) is to break-up her schedule and spend some more time on the LPGA winning tournaments. She needs to be in a final round pairing with Annika Sorenstram with the LPGA Championship on the line to understand how to make the clutch shots and experience the joys of winning. She can still take her cracks at the men's tour but notching a few LPGA wins, especially in the majors would server her just as much right now as taking her lumps against the men.
She is only 16. She has so much time ahead of her to develop her game completely and then go after the men's tournaments.