Michelle Wie Plays with the Boys

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Michelle Wie Plays with the Boys

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

This statement isn't going to win me any popularity contests, but I do not get Michelle Wie's obsession with playing on the men's golf tour. This has nothing to do with holding back feminism. Au contraire. I'm the first in line, always have been, to push for all individuals having the right to pursue their ultimate potential, in all of life's endeavors. Two years ago when Annika Sorenstam teed it up at a men's tour event, The Colonial, in Texas, rancor spewed forth, charging her and the men's tour as doing nothing but chasing a heap of cheap publicity. Annika Sorenstam has proven herself to be the greatest woman golfer of her time. Year after year, she is the lead money winner on the women's tour. She wins the most tournaments. She wins the most Major Championships. If you put her stats side by side next to Tiger's, Annika is clearly more dominant on her tour than Tiger is on the men's side. But golf is a game unlike most others where winning even 50 per cent of the time would be not just unlikely--it would be unfathomable. So Annika continues to pursue the lofty goal of being the best out there when the titles and purses are counted out at the end of each season. It is logical for the best to perhaps occasionally wonder where she might stand by the highest standard of all, the men's game. Annika earned the right to play with the boys at the Colonial, and she earned due respect from a lot of those boys in Texas two years ago.

Michelle Wie is 15 years old. She's a phenomenal golfer. There's no questioning that. Wie, a tall strong lanky 6 feet, drives the ball off the tee over 300 yards. Her ball travels the distance of three football fields through the air. That's one giant whallop! So I'm not here to put a limit on the vision of Ms. Wie's eventual potential. For all I know, she'll mature by about the age of 22, start driving the ball historic distances and beat the pants off Tiger and all the boys on a regular basis.

But we're talking about today. Michelle Wie has never won a tournament on the women's tour. She's attempted and failed to make the cut for three men's events. She has in fact made the cut for this weekend's men's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships. The winner will automatically qualify for next year's men's Major championship, the Masters, home of the pink azaleas in Augusta, Georgia. And, believe me, I'd love to see the awesome Ms. Wie strut that long stride of hers down the fairways of the heretofore sexist Augusta National Golf Club as much as anyone.

What miffs me, actually offends me, is that the talented Ms. Wie disses the women's tour. She expresses no interest in playing against the women. She states no ambitions toward winning the coveted women's Majors...the LPGA Championship, the Women's U.S. Open. It would be an entirely different scenario if she had already won all of those, multiples of times, and she was bored, needed to move on to a bigger pie in the sky. She deflects reporters' questions about going head to head with Annika. She, somewhat ironically, demonstrates little recognition of the other stellar teenagers who are setting the women's tour on fire at the moment. Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lang, and others are playing a very exciting brand of golf right now and they respect each other enough to consider their tour world-class and worthy of their athletic goals.

This Michelle Wie situation, to use a tennis analogy, would be like Amelie Mauresmo saying she wanted to focus on winning the men's Wimbledon title. Mauresmo is a fine player from France, who is ranked number three in the world but who has not yet won a Major title on the women's tour. At least she has won tournaments. Michelle Wie isn't even at Mauresmo's comparative level yet.

Like I said, all individuals should be allowed their dreams. But sports dictate an inherent fairness. You qualify for the level where you deserve to play. Michelle Wie does not yet deserve to focus all her talents and attention on men's tournaments. She reaches that plateau once she has conquered the women's tour.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad