Mark Nessmith This Week at July 12, 2005

Shocking news: People are talking
about a golfer who's not Tiger Woods

Reading just now about Michelle Wie and what she has on her plate for the next few months, I began thinking back to how I spent my 15th summer.

I seem to remember sleeping late a lot, watching Bonanza re-runs on cable and "reading" Sports Illustrateds swimsuit edition. Im sure I must have mowed a few lawns - fished a bit, perhaps. Golf was never my thing like it is for kids like Wie. Late in the afternoon my friends and I might ride skateboards over to a street that bordered a nearby country club, rusty irons in hand and pockets bulging with stolen range balls. We'd blast shots toward the green, cuss like sailors when we landed in the sand and never repair divots. When a group of late-playing members would approach in their golf carts, we'd all grab our club and skateboard and haul butt, laughing like hyenas. But alas, this is not a tale of pimply faced, fledgling golf commandos. We had no business being on that golf course or any other.

Wie, though, hers is a different story. A great story. At 15 shes coming in under par on the PGA Tour and, as far as I can tell from my distant vantage point, having a hell of a summer. Remember, she is A) female and B) not Tiger Woods. So no one is supposed to care about her, right? But golf fans do care  and in a big way. The traffic in comments on blogs that mention Wie is unreal. Whether it was Chris Baldwin writing that Wie would become a novelty that's worn off if she doesn't notch a big finish soon, Kiel Christianson breaking down people's expectations of her, or Jennifer Mario's asking what she ought to wear, readers piled into the fray. Wie right now is a massive boost for any tourney she plays in. The USGA site reportedly got more than 50 million page views when she played in the U.S. Womens Open last month.

Thus far, there really hasn’t been a downside, has there? It is summer and Wie is a 15-year-old kid playing golf. What could be more natural? I haven’t read of any nightmare relations with a parent, ala Sean O’Hair ala Todd Marinovich ala Mary Pierce ala the Williams sisters and on and on. Not yet anyway. What’s the worst that could happen, that she never does win on the PGA Tour!? That she qualifies this week for the 2006 Masters, re-igniting the likes of Martha Burk and Jesse Jackson and bringing them back to Augusta? That she never does win on the LPGA Tour (don't bet on that)? That she cries herself to sleep at night because of what some golf blogger writes about her? (Don’t bet on that either.)

Of course there are those who feel if Wie doesn’t win and win now, she’s cooked, yesterday’s news, tossed onto the slag heap of golf trivia. I have to wonder what cynics like that felt at the end of the John Deere Classic Sunday. The aforementioned Sean O’Hair won, of course, finishing on the TPC at Deere Run at 16-under 268. A win against a lackluster field is still a win. And when you've gone through the childhood ringer like O'Hair did, it’s all the more sweet. How many golf fans wrote him off years ago as a prodigy gone bust? How many golf bloggers poured jet fueled on the coffin of his career, before pushing it out to sea and moving on? Now, with a win under his belt finally, O’Hair has a spot in this week's British Open and more than a little to look forward to.

Im content to let Wie do whatever the hell she wants. I could care less what the "ramifications" are. The PGA Tour and LPGA Tour are stagnating entities anyway, as are most players in the golf industry. The Summer of Wie is just the thing to get people back on course.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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