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26 comments

Comment from: Jim Coulthard [Visitor]
I have issues with Morgan Pressel, but it is outrageous that she is being made to go through sectional qualifying. The LPGA is so concerned about her high school educaton that she can't become a member until she is 18(or she graduates) but they will ask her to take 4 days off for sectional qualifying. Both Lang and Pressel did well enough to EARN their cards for next year had they been LPGA pros--but the spiteful amateur hating pros at the LPGA won't even seed them into the final LPGA Q Tournament. I believe this type of behavior by the LPGA would make them vulnerable to a lawsuit challenging the 18 year old age requirement--but I doubt that Morgan Pressel will be the one to file the suit.
09/20/05 @ 14:17
Comment from: Candace Polski [Visitor]
Careful Jim! You didn't mention Michelle Wie! John D, arnie, and all the other Wie patrolmen will be confused by your reply!

Seriously, your note is spot on. Most of the issues the "Wie Warriors", as Baldwin likes to call anyone who thinks she is more than a 15-year-old high school student who plays a little golf, center around this very issue: the LPGA is anti-amateur. Period. Nancy Lopez sets a great example for everyone throughout the association, but she is not alone.

Amazing, considering Bobby Jones remains the icon of championship golf. His defiantly remaining an amateur has caused him to be hailed throughout the years as the purest of golf competitors. Yet when young players try to follow in that mold today, even just for a little while, they have road blocks put up for them at every turn.

Here's to hoping Pressel and Lang both "earn" the cards that they have already truly earned. And here's to hoping the LPGA realizes that they cannot consider their tour a group of the very best women's golfers in the world if they continue to exclude some women who would clearly compete for titles each weekend.
09/20/05 @ 15:16
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
For James C

Once again your lack of knowledge causes to use hateful language regarding the LPGA this time. There must be rules and procedures in sport as there are rules in life. People who think as you do are dangerous to society.

You say, "but the spiteful amateur hating pros at the LPGA". All the pros were amateurs at one time and went through the process. There should be respect for the process and consequently admiration for those who succeed to the next level.

Take time and learn about the history, rules and procedures of golf. Stop writing hateful ignorant things while you wait for MW to find her path in golf.

The PGA and the LPGA are supportive of Amateur golfers otherwise there would be no exemptions available to play at all.
09/20/05 @ 15:47
Comment from: Choosing to Remain Anonymous [Visitor]
LPGA qualification should be based on talent and nothing else. I go to school with Morgan Pressel, and let me say, she is an outstanding student. Why is it that even though she has excelled in school far greater than many current LPGA players did when they were young, she is forced to remain an amateur? She's proven herself in school and on the golf course. Just let her (and other deserving amateurs, for that matter) play.
09/20/05 @ 17:11
Comment from: Jim Coulthard [Visitor]
Rules and procedures. These change. Look what happened in 2004. Until 2004 members of the Curtis Cup automatically qualified for the US Women's Open for the year of the competition. LPGA pros had all had the opportunity to benefit from this rule when they were amateurs. The process was made harsher for amateurs than it had been in the past. This was undoubtedly an LPGA motivated change that denied existing amateurs such as Paula Creamer the benefits then LPGA pros had had when they had gone through the process.You can't hide behind "We all went through that" when in fact none of them had gone through that. And if changes can be made that are clearlu unfavorable to amateurs, why would it be so wrong to make changes in the other direction.
09/20/05 @ 17:31
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
Jim C

Once again PLEASE learn about Golf and its governance, rules and procedures. First the USGA controls the qualifying rules for the US Women's Open. If you have an issue take it to them not the LPGA. The Curtis Cup exemption has not changed other than in how many years back it goes. It only goes back over the last 5 years now instead of the previous 10. These players were given exemptions into LOCAL Qualifying not the Open itself. It reads "L-8. Playing members of the five most recent United States Curtis Cup and United States Women's World Amateur teams (must be an amateur)." This means the players who have not turned pro since they were last on a Curtis Cup team.

I trust you do know that ALL pros do not qualify for the Open. Again if they do not they then go through Local and sectional qualifying with the Amateurs.

09/20/05 @ 20:06
Comment from: Taylor [Visitor]
Updated: Sep. 20, 2005, 6:02 PM ET
Wie to turn professional before 16th birthday
By John Hawkins
Golf World

Michelle Wie will turn pro sometime between now and Oct. 11 -- her 16th birthday -- perhaps as early as next week. In doing so, she will become the world's highest-paid female golfer.

According to sources involved in the negotiations who requested anonymity, Wie will sign endorsement deals with three companies (one believed to be Nike) worth an estimated $8 million. Adding in tournament appearance fees and other endorsements, the Hawaiian teen's compensation for her first year as a pro is expected to reach $10 million -- not counting what she wins on the course. She also will enlist the services of the William Morris Agency to secure further commercial endorsements and guide her pro career, shunning traditional golf-management companies and suggesting her long-term aspirations may involve transcending the game as much as dominating it.

The sources say Wie's first professional tournament will be the LPGA's Samsung World Championship, which begins two days after her birthday at Bighorn GC in Palm Desert, Calif., an important factor in the timing of her decision to turn pro. A source says she wants to declare as soon as possible, in order to minimize any distractions in her pro debut. "[The announcement] will happen before the end of the month," says one source familiar with the Wies' thinking. "To do it at the tournament would be a bit unsettling."

Michelle Wie
JP Thomas/FEP/Panoramic/ZUMA Press
Wie would have finished in the top 10 on the LPGA money list had she been a professional this season.

Wie's alignment with William Morris formalizes a relationship that began seven or eight years ago, according to an insider, although the agency has no prior experience in representing pro golfers and has struggled in previous partnerships with athletes. By signing with a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based image machine known for its roots in the entertainment industry -- Clint Eastwood, John Travolta and Heidi Klum are among William Morris' more notable clients -- Wie continues to defy any conventional mold. Of course, such iconoclastic vitality has become one of the Hawaiian teenager's strongest marketing assets. It gave her a claim to brushfire fame after beating grown men in state competitions when she was 13 years old and has been handily cultivated since, mostly through three head-turning performances on the PGA Tour, a pair of top-five finishes in LPGA majors and her run to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in July.

So here she comes: a 6-foot-1, Korean-American phenom with good looks, poise, serious length off the tee and a golf swing woven by the finest natural ingredients known to man. "You watch her against other women, the shots she has, it's no contest," says Jimmie Johnson, who spent 10 years caddieing for Nick Price and has worked several tournaments for Wie. "She knows how to play golf. I don't see any weaknesses in her game."

Add the oversized-dream quotient so common among those her age, her gender-blender capabilities and the constant patter of attention Wie seems to thrive on and it's no wonder the line of high-profile dealmakers stretched around the block before narrowing to three primary management-company suitors. No wonder Wie will sign an equipment/apparel contract with Nike worth about $5 million per year, according to knowledgeable sources (Nike officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment). No wonder William Morris hired a high-ranking executive away from the PGA Tour to navigate the blooming superstar around the trap doors of outrageous fortune.

"She will be the most recognized female athlete on the planet for the next 12 to 18 months," predicts Scott Seymour, vice president of Octagon, a firm whose own roster includes Mia Hamm, Anna Kournikova, Michael Phelps and John Elway. "Her marketability will never be higher than it is now. How much money she makes long-term will be determined by how well she plays."

Seymour's analysis offers a broad-canvas perspective on the most highly anticipated amateur-to-pro leap since Tiger Woods nine years ago. Wie's initial annual endorsement package is expected to be $8-10 million, at least $2.8 million more than any other female golfer, belying any talk that she is taking a risk by signing with William Morris. Although it still boasts one of the strongest client-celebrity lists in the business, the agency has lost tennis stars Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick in the last two years and recently was forced to deal with turbulence caused by the departures of actresses Halle Berry and Reese Witherspoon.

But William Morris had several positives in its portfolio that were presumably of interest to the Wies. Among the agency's six worldwide offices is one in Shanghai, providing contacts and expertise if (and when) Michelle tries to take on the Asian market. William Morris has a successful publishing division, one that is known for its book-to-screen deals. While Michelle has never publicly stated that she wants to be a celebrity, William Morris -- according to its sports-marketing mission statement -- "seeks to secure motion picture, television, commercial, licensing, broadcasting and sponsorship opportunities for sports clients wanting to expand and diversify their careers." (Most recently, William Morris helped another female sports client, Serena Williams, land roles in the movie "Beauty Shop" and the Showtime drama "Street Time.") Finally, William Morris counts the PGA Tour as one of its consulting clients, which may explain its most obvious course of action in the pursuit of Wie -- the recruitment of Ross Berlin, whose final day with the PGA Tour was Sept. 2.

A key lieutenant under commissioner Tim Finchem, Berlin's duties involved strengthening relationships with existing title sponsors, which patched up a weakness that surfaced in Camp Ponte Vedra in recent years. Asked about Wie's imminent signing and whether he has a working plan for his new client, Berlin responded, "I have no comment on that."

An agreement with golf novice William Morris probably was made easier because Wie's father, B.J., already had relationships with Nike and an Asian-based electronics company (probably Samsung) that will account for the bulk of Michelle's off-course income. "A lot of networking has gone on in the last two or three years," says swing coach David Leadbetter, whose tutorship has been a key to Wie's development. "It doesn't take a genius to consummate a deal at this stage. What's important is the follow-up." (If you're wondering about Michelle's amateur status, provided no deal is signed between a player and a management company and/or a potential sponsor while that player is still playing as an amateur, that player's amateur status is not violated. USGA executive director David Fay visited the Wies in Hawaii in 2004 and came away satisfied the family understood the rules and had committed no violations.)

Asked to elaborate on specifics involving his daughter's career direction, B.J. Wie told Golf World, "I will be unable to speak about any business-related matters until the completion of all deals." In addition to Nike and Samsung, those deals might possibly include one with an airline that would provide the Wies transportation to and from Hawaii while Michelle, a junior at the Punahou School in Honolulu, completes her education. "Michelle plans to graduate in 2007 and also plans to attend Stanford," B.J. Wie acknowledges.

William Morris, Octagon and IMG were said to be the finalists to represent Wie, each offering a different area of expertise in terms of client management: IMG the most experience and best connections within golf; Octagon the strongest bridge between pro sports and the corporate world; and William Morris the broadest opportunity outside of sports. Sources offer slightly different accounts of what B.J. wanted in terms of an agreement. At some point he realized -- through the advice of others or on his own -- that up-front, guaranteed money such as a "signing bonus" wasn't going to happen, at least from companies already representing star athletes and/or established pro golfers.

Because B.J. had done most of the legwork on the current deals, he asked the agencies to complete these contracts free of charge and accept a reduced commission on future agreements. IMG declined out of respect to its large roster of other golf clients, sources said, but William Morris, which tried unsuccessfully last year to sign LPGA star Natalie Gulbis, saw Wie as the type of high-profile, breakthrough talent worth a smaller return on its investment.

Although B.J.'s critics characterize him as a man with an inflexible business sense and a lack of long-term vision, there appears to be an end to his means. "He comes off as very meek and humble, but he's very tough in many respects," Leadbetter says. "He can get very animated at times." A longtime IMG client and perhaps the world's most recognizable golf instructor, Leadbetter says he offered gentle counsel to the Wies in regard to a management agency and doesn't sound surprised the family went in another direction. "There's more to it than writing up contracts," Leadbetter adds. "There's the business of servicing a player's needs all over the globe, and that can be very difficult. I told them IMG had tremendous experience in that area, but I wasn't adamant about it. They have their own agenda. They know what they want, and I think she'll be a success no matter who represents her."

Still, the issue of representation could not mean more than in the case of a teen prodigy with pronounced trailblazing tendencies. By all accounts, Wie has no intention of trying to play her way through the LPGA's Qualifying School this fall and is likely to suffice with six sponsor's exemptions on that tour in 2006. She cannot become an official member of the LPGA until she turns 18 (unless she petitions the tour for a special exemption), which, in Wie's case, would seem to have little effect on her competitive plans before then.

"That isn't a surprise," LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens says. "What I think is important for the LPGA is that Michelle can dream her dreams and pursue her dreams, and that she has options. Because she wants to do things a little differently, that's OK."

Wie also will accept invitations to men's events as the opportunity arises. Her first such chance is likely to be the Casio World Open in November, a regular stop on the Japan PGA Tour in which Wie will receive an appearance fee. Sources say Wie was invited to participate in the Skins Game, the popular ABC event held during Thanksgiving weekend, but declined because of its conflicting dates with the Casio.

There are a number of reasons why Wie could establish a major presence in the Far East. More than her ancestry or Hawaii's relative proximity, Japan's thriving golf economy has an unusual twist: Women's pro events regularly earn higher TV ratings than the men's. "The money coming out of Asia is unbelievable," Seymour says. "With Michelle's background and ethnicity, it's a wide-open frontier."

This landscape is sure to include the opportunity for substantial appearance fees, but it also provides Wie a more level field in terms of competing against men. The quality of play in the Far East isn't nearly as strong as that of the PGA Tour, meaning Wie can make big-league money while honing her skills in something akin to a minor-league setting.

That doesn't mean she won't command interest from any number of tournament directors in America -- Wie can accept up to seven such invitations on the PGA Tour. Her value to smaller events spiked in a positive direction after July's John Deere Classic, where Wie missed the cut by two strokes but took the Friday telecast well past its slotted airtime -- NBC Universal transferred live coverage from USA Network to CNBC as she attempted to qualify for the weekend. "What 15-year-old athlete changes television schedules?" Seymour says. "Not only that, but in the pro-am [draft], they're picking Michelle Wie over top [male] golfers in the field. That's a pretty big statement -- some of the guys [who play in pro-ams] are running international companies."

Such impact comes at a time when there is serious talk of schedule contraction on the PGA Tour, making Wie even more appealing to tournaments that might be on the endangered-species list. From a grass-roots standpoint (ticket sales, concessions, merchandise), Wie can move the needle like a Phil Mickelson or John Daly, and she generates more buzz than a nest of hornets. "When I go around town today, people are still talking about it," says John Deere tournament director Clair Peterson. "A lot of people came to our event who never would have otherwise."

If there is an issue that has dogged Wie throughout her ventures into the cross-gender arena, it is her lack of so-called credentials to compete at such a level. Her only triumph of renown came at the 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship, leading some to believe that the longer she goes without a victory, the less valuable her marketability becomes. "What Michelle needs to do is win," Bivens says. "I hope she puts herself in enough situations to do that. The newness can wear off. She is incredibly talented. I think winning should be one of Michelle's [top priorities] in the next two years or so."

Leadbetter, meanwhile, sees a work in progress: a teenager of superstar potential whose runner-up finish at the second LPGA major of 2005, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, is a harbinger, not a noose. "If you beat 148 other women, is that not winning?" Leadbetter says. "Just because you don't shoot the lowest score doesn't mean you haven't beaten an awful lot of people."

John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World
09/20/05 @ 20:45
Comment from: Taylor [Visitor]
Wie will make millions for being different
By John Hawkins
Golf World

As the father of two young daughters, I've come to understand the importance of balancing common sense and compassion, whether it's in a fight over a toy or the sound of the ice cream truck rolling down the street 20 minutes before dinner. The same application might serve us well when assessing the future of Michelle Wie. She's ready to declare herself a professional golfer, about to become uncommonly rich and unduly famous -- terms dictated by the market for a 15-year-old phenom who hits it like a man and likes to compete against men, but otherwise projects the same sweet tooth for life as Holly Golightly.

Sounds like a winner to me, except that Wie hasn't really won anything, complicating a script that takes on added depth via the calculated tactics of an omnipresent father and red-carpet overtures of celeb-friendly management agency William Morris. Paula Creamer just led the United States to victory in the Solheim Cup. Morgan Pressel recently cruised to victory at the U.S. Women's Amateur, yet Wie is the teenage girl who will cash the biggest endorsement checks. One might easily wonder if the timing of her signing is a sign of the times.

Michelle Wie
With her sense of style, background and values, Wie will make millions in endorsements.

And so Style beats Substance, 3 and 2, which should surprise no one living in a country where TV shows breathlessly report the birth of Britney Spears' baby or the scent of Jessica Simpson's bath water. No matter how many trophies she does or doesn't have, Wie is an exceptionally marketable young lady, and thus, will be paid accordingly. She will make a lot of money overseas and represent products other golfers (male or female) simply lack the identity for. Not because she is "better" than Creamer or Pressel. Not even by virtue of that huge potential. It's because she is different.

That always has been the story line here. Michelle Wie has separated herself from all her age peers and on-course competitors by precociously branding herself as a "pioneer." It's a bulletproof commercial platform because it doesn't necessarily require a high level of execution. On this road less traveled, you can earn just as many points for the venture as the actual result. Success is measured in very subjective terms: Wie enters a PGA Tour event, plays well but misses the cut, then vows to do better the next time.

She is undaunted by the pursuit because it continues to yield a reward. As long as Michelle keeps trying to beat men, there will be plenty of sponsorship dollars. Like the American flag or a burning bra, she stands for something. All the conventional wisdom in the world isn't going to change that.

In researching and reporting the story of Wie turning pro, I spoke to a number of people, many of them in the golf industry, who were unwilling to go on the record with their thoughts because the announcement wasn't official. A lot of the stuff was negative in tone, making it difficult to publish because it fell in the sour-grapes or axe-to-grind category. Still, it was very useful information because it forced a balance of perspective -- a journalist's mix of common sense and compassion.

One of the biggest issues regards Wie's choice of a management company. William Morris has never represented a pro golfer, nor has the man it hired to guide Wie's career, Ross Berlin, held such responsibilities with another pro athlete. It's as if any designs Wie has to become "famous" are basically sacrilegious, as if the 2003 winner of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links title should turn down the chance to appear on the "Late Show with David Letterman" out of sheer principle.

I don't know about you, but if my daughter wins a spelling bee and Letterman's people call, there's a fairly decent chance we'll be outside waiting for the limo.

One intelligent person told me that Wie won't further the LPGA's cause by reasoning, "You look at the demographics of women's golf -- you've got a lot of 50-, 60- and 70-year-old women going to these events. Fifteen-year-old girls are not watching LPGA events on TV."

I thought about that for a while, at least until my memory tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of the thousands upon thousands of kids, minorities and otherwise demographically challenged people who have paid good money to watch Tiger Woods over the years.

In the curious case of Michelle Wie, time will provide the answers, and when the questions involve someone who is 15, there is an abundance of that. Maybe she'll turn into Michelle McGann; maybe she's Tiger with a ponytail. All we know now is that the road less traveled is paved in gold bricks, the journey as lucrative as the destination is uncertain.

John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine
09/20/05 @ 20:59
Comment from: Hurley Ewings [Visitor]
How will this impact Morgan's prospects for lucrative endorsements? Is Morgan leaning towards a particular equipment company and mgmt firm? Assuming that Morgan successfully completes Q-Schools, will the LPGA re-think their stance regarding when she is allowed to become a an official member?

Thanks.

HEE
09/21/05 @ 12:45
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
Taylor

What is the point of putting full articles on this Blog. Is that your response to the above article or are you showing us that you know how to cut and paste?
09/21/05 @ 14:13
Comment from: Jim Coulthard [Visitor]
Joe. As you should know rules regarding exemptions to the Open change frequently. Prior to 2004, Curtis Cup members were given full exemptions, at least for that year.
I do not know all the details.










09/21/05 @ 16:04
Comment from: Norman [Visitor]
If anyone could summarise Taylors post to a couple of paragraphs, it would be appreciated by those of us who couldn't be bothered reading them.
09/21/05 @ 16:19
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
Jim C

Please check you source because they were NOT given Full Exepmtion to the US Open ONLY to local qualifiying.

2004 Full Exemptions
http://www.uswomensopen.com/2004/players/qualifying/local-sectional-exempt.html

2004 Local Exemptions
L-8 deals with Curtis Cup
http://www.uswomensopen.com/2004/players/qualifying/local-exempt.html

You may be confused because Michell Wie was one of three people given a special exemption to play in the US Open in 2004 under S-12

Previous years read the same as far as Curtis Cup players.
09/21/05 @ 16:43
Comment from: Jim Coulthard [Visitor]
My source actually speaks only about 2002, but I assmed it was the same in previous years. Go to www.uswomensopen.com/2004/press

Now click on the Fay say Wie article for June 30, 2004. The artcile mentions what the exemption was for 2004.
09/21/05 @ 17:57
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
Yes I know what is was as mentioned above. She was one of 3 specials.
09/21/05 @ 18:19
Comment from: Jim Coulthard [Visitor]
Yes but inside the article it is mentioned that the entire 2004 Curtis Cup team got an exemption.
09/21/05 @ 19:08
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
I believe that was a one time thing.
09/22/05 @ 08:55
Comment from: Norman [Visitor]
Getting back to the topic, Pressel is just outside the top 30 places to qualify for the next stage.
What if she doesn't even make it out of sectional? That would be a complete disaster. Pull up your socks Morgan. She should be able to get out of sectional with ease.
09/22/05 @ 19:04
Comment from: Jim Coulthard [Visitor]
After 3 rounds Morgan is T23 at one over 73-72-72. She should be able to make it out, but if she does not, I would guess she will stay an amateur for another year. She might enjoy playing on the Curtis Cup Team and defending her Women's Amateur Title.

I do find it somwhat ironic that her current position is T23.
09/22/05 @ 20:29
Comment from: Norman [Visitor]
If Pressel were to drop one shot she would be down to 40th.
That is a bit worrying. Hopefully she plays well the final day.
09/23/05 @ 18:33
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
Morgan finished sixth at 8 under and the top Amateur in the LPGA Sectional Q School. She shot a 63. The subtle sarcasm of those that hope she fails is so obvious it is sad.

On to the Finals it will be fun to see her with a full Tour card next year!!!
09/23/05 @ 22:04
Comment from: Rodney [Visitor]
I hope I'm not one of those you refer too. I'm a big fan of Morgan and wouldn've been devastated had she not made it. Hopefully she makes it through final qualifying next.
09/24/05 @ 10:12
Comment from: Norman [Visitor]
Horray for Pressel.
Well done, and lets hope Q-school goes as well. Thankfully her game came together in the final round.
09/24/05 @ 10:19
Comment from: Chris Tate [Visitor]
Summary of Taylor's post:

1. Michelle Wie will turn pro around the time of her 16th birthday in mid-Oct. which is around the time of the LPGA Samsung event to which she has already been invited.

2. The pro deal centers around a multi-million endorsement deal from Nike and other unamed sponosors. She'll be rep'd by Wm. Morris, kind of unusual for an athlete.

3. Commentary from GolfWorld that Wie doesn't have to win to be popular with fans because she is being marketed on hope and promise. She will play with the men and, well, if she doesn't win, she may next time.

4. Also, she is unique and the marketing of this is working. She's still younger than the other pros, male and female. Very tall. etc. She's still a novelty and this works. Actually I'm not sure if this was in the article, but I believe the freak show factor is still in full effect.
09/24/05 @ 12:13
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]
Chris Tate

Good summary

The sad thing about the Michelle Wie story is that it makes one wonder if this is what SHE wants to do.

When her father B.J. Wie is interviewed his response is usually "I have not decided" when it should be "we" or "Michelle". This may be more about HIM cashing in than doing what is best for his daughter. Unfortunately there is a "freak show factor" to all this.

I hope in the long run Michelle gets control of her own career and is very successful.
09/25/05 @ 19:30
Comment from: Norman [Visitor]
I think there is no doubt she wants to play golf.

I think the reason they are cashing in now is because, what would happen if she picked up an injury.

Can you imagine how frustrating it would be having turned down heaps of cash and then not be able to get any money due to an injury.

I think it is his (BJ's) choice of when she turns professional. The main thing is if she wants to play golf and leave the other decisions to him.

If she decides she doesn't want to play golf in the morning, hopefully he would just support her. Can't see that happening though.
09/26/05 @ 17:37

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