Michelle Wie — Michelle Sung Wie was born on October 11, 1989. She is an American professional golfer who plays on the LPGA Tour. In 2006, she was named in a Time magazine article as “one of 100 people who shape our world.” At age 10, she became the youngest player to qualify for USGA amateur championship. Wie would also become the youngest winner of the US Women’s Amateur public links and the youngest to qualify for a LPGA tour event. Wie turned professional shortly before her 16th birthday, accompanied by an enormous amount of hype and endorsements.
Family and Education
Wie was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her parents are both natives of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) who came to the United States in the 1980s. Her father, Byung-wook Wie, is a former professor of transportation management at the University of Hawaii. Her mother was South Korea’s women’s amateur golf champion in 1985 and competed in a Miss Korea pageant. Her paternal grandfather, Dr. Sang Kyu Wie, a native of Jangheung, Jeollanam-do, was an emeritus professor at Seoul National University. When she was born, both her parents had Korean citizenship, so Wie had been a dual citizen of both the Republic of Korea and the United States automatically. But, the Republic of Korea does not allow dual citizenship after the age of 21. Wie has opted for United States citizenship.
Wie graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii in June, 2007. On December 19, 2006, she announced that she would be attending Stanford University where there are family ties. Her paternal grandfather was a visiting professor and an aunt and uncle are both graduates. She enrolled in September, 2007 as a freshman, but as a professional golfer, Wie is not eligible under NCAA rules to play for Stanford’s golf team. During her first three years at Stanford, she attended only during the fall and winter quarters, running from late September through mid-March each year. She took leaves of absence during the rest of the year to play professional golf.
Wie began playing golf at the age of four. In 2000, at the age of ten, she became the youngest player ever to qualify for the Women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. In 2001, at the age of 11, she won both the Hawaii State Women’s Stroke Play Championship and the Jennie K. Wilson Women’s Invitational, the oldest and most prestigious women’s amateur tournament in Hawaii. She also advanced into match play at the Women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
In 2002, she won the Hawaii State Open Women’s Division by thirteen shots. She also became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event, the Takefuji Classic held in Wie’s home state of Hawaii. While she went on to miss the cut, her record stood for five more years until it was broken in 2007 by 11-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn.
At the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wie became the youngest player to make an LPGA cut. In June 2003, Wie won the Women’s Amateur Public Links tournament, becoming the youngest person ever, male or female, to win a USGA adult event. Later that summer, she made the cut at the US Women’s Open when she was still just 13, the youngest player ever to do so. Wie was given a sponsor’s exemption to the 2004 Sony Open in Hawaii, becoming the fourth, and youngest, female to play a PGA Tour event. As part of the victorious U.S.team she became the youngest woman ever to play in the Curtis Cup.
On October 5, 2005, a week before her 16th birthday, Wie announced that she was turning professional. She signed sponsorship contracts with Nike and Sony reportedly worth more than 10 million dollars per year.
Having turned professional, Wie was not a member of any professional tour. LPGA Tour membership age requirements require a golfer to be 18, although some players such as Morgan Pressel and Aree Song have successfully petitioned for an exemption to join at age 17. Wie chose not to request an exemption and was thus only allowed to participate in a limited number of LPGA Tour events when given a sponsor’s exemption from 2005 until 2008. She also chose not to participate in the Tour’s Qualifying Tournaments (or “Q-School”) until December 2008, when she finished 7th to gain LPGA membership for the 2009 season.
Wie played her first professional event in the 2005 LPGA Samsung World Championship, where she was disqualified from a fourth-place finish for signing an incorrect scorecard. A journalist (Michael Bamberger) reported she had illegally dropped the ball closer to the hole than its original lie the day after she completed her third round. At her other professional event in 2005, the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour, Wie shot four over par to miss the cut.
2006 started with the PGA Tour Sony Open at her home course, the Waialae Country Club, Hawaii where she again missed the cut, this time by four strokes. In the initial Rolex World Golf Rankings in February, 2006, Wie was placed third behind Annika Sörenstam and Paula Creamer. She rose to second place in July but her limited schedule meant she failed to play the minimum of 15 worldwide professional women’s tournaments over a twenty-four month period and she was dropped from the rankings entirely. In August, 2006, the calculation of the rankings was revised such that any player who had accumulated points in fewer than 35 tournaments had her ranking calculated as if she had played in 35. After the change, Wie’s ranking dropped to 7th.
Wie had expressed her desire to attempt to earn membership on the LPGA Tour for the 2009 season by earning the equivalent of 80th place on the 2008 money list through her earnings at the events she played in through sponsor exemptions. When she failed to reach this goal, she entered an LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament. At the tournament, held from September 16 through 19 at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, she finished tied for 4th place. This was sufficient to advance her to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament held in Daytona Beach, Florida in December, 2008. During the Final Qualifying Tournament, Wie finished in a tie for 7th place to make her eligible to play full time on the LPGA Tour in 2009.
After passing LPGA Qualifying School in December 2008, Wie declared that she still planned to play in tournaments against men. However for the second consecutive year, she did not receive a sponsor exemption to play in the Sony Open in Hawaii where she had played four years in a row from 2004 through 2007. Her first tournament as an LPGA member was the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay where she shot 66, 70 to move into a tie with Angela Stanford going into the final round of the tournament. Wie held a three-stroke lead with eight holes remaining, but ended up losing to Stanford by three strokes.
It was reported in early March, 2009, that Wie had left the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent agency that had represented her since she turned pro in 2005, and would be signing with sports agency IMG.
At the second major of the year, the LPGA Championship, she finished tied for 23rd, her best finish in a major since 2006. During this tournament she also scored her first recorded hole-in-one as a professional.
The day after the end of the LPGA Championship, Wie participated in a sectional qualifying tournament for the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open to be held during the first week in July. She joined 110 players at the Rockville, Maryland site, one of several sites around the country set up for qualifying purposes on that day. Wie missed qualifying after shoot rounds of 70 and 74. In August, at Rich Harvest Farms golf course in Sugar Grove, Illinois, Wie was a captain’s pick for the United States team in Solheim Cup competition. She finished the tournament with a 3-0-1 performance in four matches.
On November 15, 2009, Wie won her first professional individual tournament, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico, a limited field event on the LPGA Tour, posting a score of thirteen under par 275 for a two-stroke margin over fellow American Paula Creamer, and besting Jiyai Shin, Christie Kerr and Morgan Pressel by two strokes. It was Wie’s 81st professional tournament and her 66th LPGA Tour event.
On August 29, 2010, she posted a three-shot win over a full field at the CN Canadian Women’s Open, held at St. Charles Country Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for her second career professional victory.
Wie has been criticized for making statements which are considered arrogant and unfounded by many. Some of these statements have been considered offending to her (female) peers on the LPGA.
“Hopefully, I will be able to play the Ryder Cup one day, that would be awesome and I think it is totally possible.”
“My ultimate goal is to play in the Masters.”
“My favorite player is Tiger Woods. I think I can beat Tiger when I’m 20. It’s a life goal.”
“If I ever get bored with golf, I’m going to start over and play lefthanded.”.
“I watch the PGA, not the LPGA. I like the players on the PGA better.”