Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wiesy goes legit

Michelle Wie turned professional today. She is 16 next Tuesday and has $5 million each from Nike and Sony as a birthday present. The problem is that she can only play 8 events a year on exemptions for the next 2 years. The LPGA has wisely decided that one must be 18 before trying for a card on the tour.

Given the large amount of money Michelle missed out on this year as a amateur I am sure she will make plenty even in the 8 events she can play in. But she will make even more parading as an oddity/genius/clotheshorse for Nike and others elsewhere. (And she has been wearing Nike gear for at least the last 2 years) Fairly fluent in Japanese she is being seen in marketing terms for those brands based in the Far East where women golfers have a very high status and many fans.

Michelle’s sights are not just set on women’s golf. She wants to play in the Masters. Expect to see her competing in more men’s events in the next two years but not Augusta! And also expect to see more knives out for her from fellow competitors on the LPGA tour. Michelle as a amateur was not free from criticism, her invites to some events deeply offended many women players who had to compete to qualify but now she is professional I would see that criticism getting a lot louder and more direct. (Alison Nichols, a former US open winner, was less than enthusiastic about the whole thing when interviewed on BBC Five Live this morning!) She is being called the next Tiger Woods and there is huge excitement about her and the future for women’s golf. Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel might have a lot to say about that!

However if she goes round playing men’s tournaments and losing cuts she will not gain fans or respect for those logos she is being paid to wear. Knocking the socks off the women and beating Annika a few times would set her in better stead for her tasks ahead.

Sadly the Ladies European Tour does not have a Michelle Wie in the shadows. Womens golf in Europe is poorly sponsored and shoddily run. There is very little money available to encourage younger players and the best players leave for the USA as soon as they can. Rebecca Coakley, currently Irelands best woman professional golfer is currently competing for her tour card on the LPGA tour this year. (Registration Required)


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