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July 13 - Give The Girl Some Room

America’s most famous 15-year-old athlete is competing against the big boys
again this week. Michelle Wie is playing in another men’s tournament – this one,
the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in Lebanon, Ohio. Albeit a far cry
from last week’s PGA Tour John Deere Classic, this tournament comes with a big
reward to the victor…an invitation to next year’s Masters. But for Wie, it carries a
potentially greater reward.

The knock on her at this stage is that she does not know how to win. To that, I say,
“What do you expect? She is 15!!!”

There is a reason she folded in the final round of the recently completed U.S.
Open. There is a reason she played poorly down the stretch last week against the men. She has yet to
develop that killer instinct. It takes time to learn how to win. It comes with experience and maturity. And it
is in tournament’s such as this where Wie will learn how to do exactly that.

Let’s put this in perspective for a moment. Is she a prodigy? Yes. Does she have the potential to
transcend sports in the way Tiger Woods does? Without a doubt. But where were you when you were
15? Were you on an international stage, with hoards of fans watching you and countless media
members documenting your every move? Unless the A&P or McDonald’s was the focal point of your
hometown’s newspaper and newscast, I highly doubt it. So to expect Wie to dominate and win at this
stage is unreasonable, regardless of what she says her expectations are when she is answering all the
questions.

Today, Wie won her first round match in the field of 64, after plying two rounds of
stroke play just to get to this point. She won the match after trailing by two holes
on the front nine and by one as late as the 13th hole. She won it by one hole,
when she birdied 18. That is how a killer instinct takes shape.

This tournament is the real first step of Wie’s career development. She is
competing against men. She is in a lesser tournament, with stakes that are
prestigious as opposed to monetary. It was great that she played and contended
in a U.S. Women’s Open – a 15-year-old making a run at a major championship
makes great TV, but ultimately does nothing for Wie’s career. It was great that she
played against male pros in a PGA Event and even made a great run at making
the cut (coming even closer than Annika Sorenstam last year, and Sorenstam is possibly the greatest
female golfer ever). But let’s face it – those tournament’s weren’t for Michelle Wie. Those were for golf
fans and TV broadcasters and commercial advertisers. Yes, Wie will take numerous lessons from both.
But did she really learn anything for the long run?

Now, she is doing the right thing. This run in the Publinx may end tomorrow in the round of 32, or
somewhere else before the Finals. But Wie is going to take away more from this event than she did
from any other she has played in. Her development into one of the ground-breaking athletes of our time,
should her career move down that road as opposed to playing against her own gender, will most likely
be traced to this week, not last. This week, the girl is learning to become an adult.

So, for now, while it is a great story, let’s cut Michelle Wie a little slack as she matures. There will be
plenty of time to marvel at her inevitable exploits. And she will unquestionably continue to dazzle us in
the major tournaments and probably win a couple of them before her 18th birthday. But there is still so
much for her to learn, so much to understand, so much to experience. For now, let’s give the girl some
room. When you were 15, you asked your parents for exactly the same thing.