A Wie Bit Of Ego Makes A Champ
Wednesday - August 17, 2005
For many golf fans, Morgan Pressel is a brat. Someone who doesn’t handle defeat with any type of grace and who seems particularly bent on trying to knock women’s golf’s most celebrated player down a few notches.
She received flak after Sports Illustrated quoted her saying that Michelle Wie is “… not interested in promoting women’s golf. She’s interested in promoting Michelle Wie.” Wie supporters retorted that Pressel was jealous of the 15- year-old’s success.
What no one seemed willing to ask is if Pressel was right in her criticism.
After competing in the Women’s British Open, Wie said, “I don’t feel any obligation [to promote women’s golf]. I’m just doing what I want to do.”
If Michelle’s response had come from a particular gentleman in a green jersey with an eagle on his sleeve, the comment would have been splattered across the headlines. Just another spoiled athlete who believes entitlement is the payoff for ability. But maybe because she’s 15, female, attractive and one hell of a talent, she has been spared the same kind of scrutiny.
Wie hasn’t started her junior year in high school and this should be taken into consideration before judging her too harshly. She’s young and no doubt prone to teenage stupidly like most at her age. But for all of her charm, it has to be recognized that she is not your ordinary acne-challenged youth. She’s different. She’s extremely mature and very intelligent, and she knows what she is doing. Her image, a combination of schoolgirl sweetness and intense competitive fire, is completely real, but also controlled and developed.
Continuing to talk about Wie, Pressel said, “Annika [Sorenstam] played once against the men and then came back to promote women’s golf. Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs once, then she was smart enough to go back to playing against women while lobbying for equal prize money in tennis. Michelle’s trying to exclude herself from that.”
Wie has set her sights on Tiger, not Annika, and that has some people steamed. If she has the ability to play at a higher level and take on the men, then go for it. But she cannot turn her back on the LPGA. That’s the league that will carry her. Against the men, where her 300-yard drives are pedestrian, she’s more of an interesting oddity than a leaderboard threat. And if interest fades she could lose out on much more than endorsements.
With her great talent and natural ability to work the media, Wie could become one of the most influential women in the history of sport. Like King, she can help develop her game from a niche sport to one of prominence — that is, if she chooses to do so. And if she doesn’t, well, we’re not all cut out to carry the flag.
Even if Wie develops into an also-ran on the men’s tour she will still have accomplished more than any female golfer ever has. And that would be a shame because the last thing anyone wants to see is Michelle becoming golf’s Anna Kournikova, famous for being famous.
“My ultimate goal is to be No. 1 in the world and to make it to the Hall of Fame,” Pressel said. “I want to bring more money and attention to the LPGA. There’s a younger generation coming along that has the potential to do that, and some interesting rivalries are developing. Rivalries are not always a bad thing, right?”
Smart. Arnie and Jack weren’t the best of friends, but they were the fiercest of rivals. And the game exploded because of it. With tremendously talented youngsters like Wie, Pressel, Paula Creamer, Aree Song and others, the LPGA could be entering a golden age. Just don’t paint Pressel as the villain. Her comments about Wie have validity. A caddie polled in the SI PGA Championship preview said of Wie, “Every time she misses a green, it’s the caddie’s fault — except when Dad’s on the bag.” Yet many more said they would drop their current employer to carry Wie’s clubs. She’s been through about nine so far.
Athletic success is a combination of ability, work and ego. If Terrell Owens, Larry Bird and Johnny Unitas felt the need to focus on themselves, it’s kind of silly to think Michelle would be the complete opposite.
E-mail this story | Print this page | Comments (0) | Archive | RSS Comments (0) |
Most Recent Comment(s):