• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Wie believes she can hit heights again after frustrating season

It IS easy to forget Michelle Wie is still only 23.

Michelle Wie will be joined in the field for this week's Australian Open by women's golf's latest teenage prodigy, Lydia Ko. Picture: Matt Dunham/AP
Michelle Wie will be joined in the field for this week's Australian Open by women's golf's latest teenage prodigy, Lydia Ko. Picture: Matt Dunham/AP

To say she was golf's first celebrity foetus might be slightly overstating the impact of this child prodigy but she has been on the go for so long now you half expect her to be some wizened veteran. The trials and tribulations the young Hawaiian has endured over the seasons probably have added a few years but Wie is ready to write a new chapter in her eventful sporting life.

Of course, there is a new kid on the block these days and Wie has almost slithered back into the rank-and-file. Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old Korean-born New Zealander, is the latest name to give golf its teenage kicks.

Ko hasn't reached the age of 16 yet but already she has enjoyed the sweet taste of success three times on the professional circuit as an amateur and, during the past 13 months, has ripped up the record books.

In January last year, she became the youngest player to win a pro event when she plundered the New South Wales Open before becoming the youngest champion on the LPGA Tour later in the season when she landed the Canadian Open.

Last weekend, Ko set the same record on the Ladies European Tour when she captured the New Zealand Open in Christchurch. Those with an eye for branding have already pounced. Expect the catchphrase "Ready, Set, Ko" to be brandished about with wild abandon in the months ahead.

For Wie, a career that seemed destined to explode out of the blocks has been littered with false starts. However, she now believes she can reclaim her former status as one of the sport's frontrunners.

Having taken up the game at the age of four, Wie swiftly became the youngest person to do this and the youngest person to do that as her prodigious talent blossomed and her profile grew amid an increasing frenzy of publicity.

At 10, she became the youngest player to compete in a United States Golf Association event, the 2000 US Women's Public Links Championship. Three years later, she became the youngest winner of that particular title before going on to become the youngest player to qualify for and then make a cut in an LPGA Tour tournament.

Then came the sideshow that was Wie against the men, an uncomfortable exercise in exploitation that would eventually develop into a dispiriting corporate circus. It started with the PGA Tour's Sony Open in her native state in 2004 but, after she turned pro the week before her 16th birthday a year later and signed multi-million dollar contracts with Nike and Sony, the bandwagon rumbled into Europe and the Far East. Under the constant glare of her parents, BJ and Bo, who seemed to orchestrate her every move and apparently went from overprotective guardians to meddling busybodies, Wie's cameo appearances made for cringeworthy viewing and did little for her morale.

There were the odd highs, of course. A first professional win arrived in the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational and Wie also triumphed in the Canadian Open the following season. Things have gone backwards since, though, and the 2012 campaign was instantly forgettable. In 25 events on the LPGA circuit, the former Solheim Cup player posted just one top-10 finish, recorded just 19 sub-par rounds all year and missed the cut in 10 events.

It was not a complete write-off, mind you. Wie finally graduated from Stanford University. After a tough schooling in professional golf, she is now looking to make the grade on the course and fulfil her vast potential.

Wie said ahead of this week's Australian Women's Open: "I think 2012 was probably the worst year I've had in my entire career. It was rough. One thing kind of led to another and it snowballed. The next thing I knew, I was struggling to keep my head above water. But I think I learned a lot from last year. At times it was a struggle and I wasn't enjoying it. I got pretty low a couple of times but I just won't let myself get to that point. It [golf] is still something I really love.I think struggling makes you realise what you have to work on in your game, what is really lacking, and it makes you realise you have to work harder: you have to become a better player. I just started from scratch."

Wie will be joined in the field this week by Ko and it's only natural comparisons are being drawn. As the prodigy who has yet to become the professional phenomenon many expected, Wie knows better than most the pressures that come with being a teenage star.

"She [Ko] is a phenomenal player and she seems like she has a great head on her shoulders," she said. "Turning pro or not is a very personal decision. When I turned pro, I was very stubborn and I had no regrets. I hope she makes the decision for herself."

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

140572