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Wie Looks Forward To Life As Full-Time Golfer

SINGAPORE l Make no mistake, however down in the mouth Michelle Wie may have looked during her opening 79 and 81 in last week’s HSBC Women’s Champions, the player loves her golf.
She cannot wait till March, the month she graduates from Stanford and becomes full-timer on the LPGA Tour. As far as she is concerned, she has doubled as student and professional golfer for long enough – four-and-a-half years to be precise.
“It’s been tough,” says the 22-year-old Wie, whose graduation ceremony coincides with the men’s U.S. Open. “At the moment, I work out first thing in the morning, I go to class and then I practise. It’s helped that I’m good at time-management and that I’m a speed-reader, but I have to cram everything in. I get tired.
“Once I’ve finished with my exams, I’ll be able to get the extra rest I need and I can practise for longer.”
All of which explains why she is not anticipating any kind of void when her Stanford days are over.
“I’ve done everything I’ve wanted, I’ve had this growth time,” she says. “My friends are all going into jobs and, though golf doesn’t feel like a job at the moment, I think it will once I’ve graduated. I’m not a kid anymore. I’m embarking on a profession.”
Wie does not feel a shred of envy for those among the more recent recruits to the LPGA who have been fast-tracked on to the Tour and are playing full-time at 18. Some will have come straight from high school, others from a period of home-schooling.
“I know that what suits one child will not necessarily suit another but I’m a huge advocate for going to school,” says Wie. “Everyone should experience it.
“Personally, I loved my schooldays. You get to experience things that you wouldn’t otherwise experience. Also, being an only child, I wouldn’t have had any social contact without it. Because my parents speak Korean at home, I couldn’t speak English when I went and I was shy.
“Of course, there were things I didn’t like. For a while, I was bullied because I was bigger than the others. But you learn how to cope and it’s good that you learn.”
As the daughter of academic parents, Wie was always going to carry on to university. She was “thinking Stanford” from her early teens, with her father, BJ, predicting even then that she would stay the course rather than put in a token two years.
At university, as at school, Wie revelled in the company of her peers: “You might be p****d off with the fact that you have an exam the next day, but you’re all p****d off together, which makes it so much better.”
At the same time, she enjoyed sharing evening meals with friends and having “lots of normal conversations away from golf.”
Her major was in communications, with the sociology side of the subject interesting her most: “Things like how the Internet is changing the world. That and content analysis of newspapers and magazines.”
Her final project is one on gender stereotyping and the role played by children’s toys. “Girls get dolls and play at being nurses; boys have their action toys and are encouraged to explore. Without your knowing it, the toys you get make you think a certain way.”
Wie was a great one for Barbie dolls before moving into a rather less “girly” world via her golf clubs. She was, of course, no more than 14 when she played in the men’s Sony Open and was applauded into the clubhouse when she only missed making the half-way cut by one.
Gender-neutral toys may, as Wie says, be more in vogue today, but men’s and women’s professional golf remain two very separate entities.
Not too long after that Sony Open, male and female professionals alike started to feel uncomfortable with Wie’s sorties into the men’s arena. Though both sexes claimed they had her best interests at heart – something which, in fairness, became more plausible as Wie missed a string of cuts – there was always more to it than that.
The LPGA players, for example, did not appreciate the fact that their events scarcely got a mention in a week when Wie was on the PGA Tour.
Wie has never said that she will not play in another men’s event. For now, though, she will concentrate on the LPGA Tour where she already has two wins to her name.
As she mentioned in Singapore, she has her heart set on becoming the No. 1 ahead of Yani Tseng. “Everyone,” she said wistfully, “wants to be the No.1 but, unfortunately, there can only be one of them.”
Her putting gave her problems in Singapore, with her current putter – she keeps changing implements – doing nothing to make her look comfortable. The rest of her game, though, is in good shape, as indeed is the player herself – something she puts down to her new gluten-free diet.
She embarked on it of her own accord. Partly because her digestive system has been playing up for years and partly because of how it worked for Novak Djokovic.
“He went straight to No 1,” she said with a chuckle.


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