Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Girls Go Golfing High-Fives Michelle Wie; a champion golfer & artist who personifies "coolio-panache," just saying!

Michelle Wie, 2014 LPGA LOTTE Champion

Congratulations to Michelle Wie, who last week won the 2014 LPGA LOTTE Tournament in Hawaii, an important victory for Wie as well as the LPGA Tour.

It was just 11 years ago that my husband and I first met Michelle Wie. It was at the 2003 Shoprite Classic held at Seaview's Bay Course in Galloway, NJ. We were down there because we were golf fans. Also, my husband was the sports editor of the largest weekly newspaper in New Jersey. Both of us also happened to be volunteers with the local LPGA-USGA girls golf chapter in Hunterdon County.
Michelle was not enrolled in high school yet. It was so cool that a number of our junior golfers got to see her play and get their pictures taken with Michelle. The 13-year-old Wie was enthusiastic and had a 100-watt smile as she interacted with her fans. She played in this event on a sponsor's exemption and tied for 52d place. 
My husband had contracted me to be his photographer for the day. My badge allowed me in the press tent. Naturally, I had to be at Michelle's press conference. The room was packed and I waited patiently for everyone to ask their questions. When Michelle was done, I walked up to where she was still seated signing autographs.
I handed her a 2002-2003 USGA The Rules of Golf rules book. She looked at me quizzically and then shrugged her shoulders and got her sharpie ready saying," Why am I signing a rules book?"
I laughed, asked if she could give me some help with playing the shot and told her my little golf secret. And added,"Michelle, you are going to be a great champion and win bunches of golf tournaments some day. I am so glad my junior golfers got to meet you and watch you play."
Now, years later she seems to be on her way. She has dealt with an unbelievable amount of criticism stemming from her days when she played in the PGA tour Sony Open (only missing the cut by one stroke!) In 2006, my husband saw her in the 36-hole US Men's Open qualifier at Canoebrook along side David Gossett (He won a PGA Tour event.) There were 150 men there plus one woman. She beat both her fellow competitors that day shooting 68-75 and just missed qualifying for the men's open.  You remember the U.S. Open at Winged Foot? The drama unfolding down the stretch as Phil Mickelson tragically loses. Imagine if Michelle had been there from the start of the championship week. The crowds were spectacular following her during the qualifying round (see photo below)
Michelle Wie, 2006 U.S. Open qualifying, Life in Pictures
 Wie tees off during a U.S. Men's Open qualifying round at Canoebrook 
Then there were the 4-1/2 years she was playing golf and earning her college degree in communications from Stanford.
Add to it some rules infractions along the way and the years when she totally lost confidence in her putting which put more pressure on all aspects of her game.

And while on the subject of rules, the unidentified woman kneeling above the bunker looking at the ball with a horrible lie pictured on the cover of that 2002-2003 USGA Rule Book Michelle signed was me!

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