It's difficult to believe a 15-year-old teenybopper can cause such a great divide in the world's sporting media.
Michelle Wie's calm and serene personality belie her age, but her actions and decisions on and off the golf course are great fodder for those print and broadcast journalists who make a living giving their opinions. She's their dream girl in more ways than one.
Speaking of which, don't dare publicly compliment those long legs and slim, lithe body if you're male. You'll be branded, cursed, tarred, feathered and railroaded, though New York Times columnist Selena Roberts can refer to her as "runway-worthy" and not hear a peep.
But, sexism is the least controversial topic when you're considering Wie, the Hawaiian golf phenom. Wie, still an amateur, has eschewed junior tournaments and the LPGA for the most part, following her dream of competing against the men on the PGA Tour and ultimately playing in the Masters.
There seem to be several camps supporting her, and several sniping at her.
• Hey, this is America, you can do anything you want.
• You can have all the talent in the world, but you should "give back to the game," in this case the ladies game and the LPGA in particular.
• Why is she trying to play with the men when she has yet to win a real, bona-fide women's tournament?
The media seems to be as sharply divided as the rest of the mortals. As if that isn't enough, Wie also has to carry the torch for her race as well as her gender. Not even a junior in high school yet, Wie has been picked by Fortune magazine as one of America's "most influential people of color."
"Right now, Wie probably has no idea she is, like, freaking out everyone who is absolutely polarized by golf's new Tiger-esque symbol of inclusion," Roberts wrote.
Other columnists have compared her to Jackie Robinson.
"Wie's critics want her to stay on her side of professional golf's gender divide," Gannett News Service columnist DeWayne Wickham wrote. "They think she's an aberration - an oddity who has been thrust upon the male golf game by overbearing parents, greedy tournament organizers and TV executives ... By pushing herself - and the golf game - for this breakthrough opportunity, Michelle Wie deserves praise, not criticism."
That's fairly typical of columnists and commentators in Wie's camp. Most seem to be siding with Wie, maybe because to disagree with her decisions is to draw the ire of Wie's ferocious fans.
TravelGolf.com's own Jennifer Mario is solidly in the Wie camp, calling on Nancy Lopez to name her to the Solheim Cup team, though Lopez has said it would be unfair to pick her at the exclusion of an LPGA player.
Mario draws valuable comparisons between Wie's performances versus other Solheim possibles. "Wie is an American," Mario wrote. "She is a woman. Any captain who actually wants to win the Cup would want to have Wie on the team."
Chris Baldwin, another TravelGolf.com blogger, has come down on the other side. Wie's fans have responded in lock-step, calling Baldwin, among other things: "loser," "predictable," "juvenile," "a sick, dirty old man," "pathetic," "racist," "sexist," "semi-bald" and "a disgrace to men's society."
Wow. Somehow, I think the classy Wie would not exactly embrace these people as fans. In fact, I think she would get restraining orders. Interesting how people so viciously latch on to their heroes or heroines.
Yours truly, a man of remarkable tact and reason, wrote blogs concerning Wie - quoting another writer's opinions, by the way - and the LPGA in general, and was called: "punk," "chauvinist pig," "drunk," "immoral" and "repulsive."
Girls, I haven't touched alcohol since I went on antibiotics for an ear ache, two days ago. "Immoral?" Probably. "Repulsive?" Well, I just checked the mirror and the phrase "criminally handsome" came to mind.
Woe be to the journalist who doesn't fawn all over Queen Wie's grand plan. With her more vehement fans, anyone who dare dissent on Wie's decisions, especially one of her competitors, is invariably branded as "jealous."
Her fellow rivals are also divided, but there does seem to be a implied accusation of selfishness. "... I hope she does well but I hope she wants to contribute to the LPGA Tour and help us get where we need to go," Christie Kerr told the media.
Morgan Pressel, a favorite target of Wie wannabees, objects to what she considers the media's glad-handling of Wie.
"I was shocked that there wasn't more talk of Michelle Wie's final round 82 (at the U.S. Women's Open)," Pressel told Sports Illustrated. "I mean, why is that? Or about how when it looked like she was going to make the cut at the John Deere Classic, she played the last four holes in three over par ... Michelle hasn't played a lot of junior golf so she hasn't learned how to finish tournaments."
That's difficult to argue with because - dare I say it - the youngster has shown a tendency to choke with something big on the line. That is hardly unusual for one so young, and she has plenty of time to make up for it. As for her taking her own path, my opinion is divided, which is a rarity for me.
Yes, she should be allowed to pursue her own dreams: it's the American Way. But, all those women golfers who have gone before her paid their dues paving the way for her. Without them, and the LPGA, she wouldn't be in the can't-lose throne from which she now rules. Doesn't she owe it to them, and to those who come after her, to give a little something back?
And don't tell me she brings great PR to the LPGA by playing against the men. Every time she tees it up at an LPGA event, TV ratings soar. You ask the LPGA people, I think they would tell you they'd rather have Michelle on the pink team.
August 15, 2005
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!