Girl golfer contaminates PGA Tour

Michelle Wie, a 16-year-old golfer, is criticized for competing in men's tournaments.

Published September 15, 2006 6:28PM (EDT)

It seems everyone in the golf world has an opinion on 16-year-old golfer Michelle Wie and whether she should be competing in men's tournaments. The governing rhetoric seems to be that Wie's high ambitions of playing among the sport's best male players have dwarfed her actual talent, turning the promising newbie into an embarrassing and sad spectacle. "You never want to see the novelty become a carnival act," Mike Kern wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News. A sports blogger put it more simply: "Please, please, please, don't let this gracious, graceful, talented teenager devolve into a freak."

Wie may have been followed around by a flock of fans who cheered for her every shot during her recent turn in a PGA Tour event, but her game was relatively poor. "I don't enjoy watching people cheer for her just because she hit a shot out of the rough that still came up 20 yards short of the green," says Kern. Critics say this is demoralizing and detracts from Wie's professional standing. "She hits the ball a lot longer than most women," says Kern. "Most men still hit it a lot longer than she. The game is different."

Despite Kern's acknowledgment that Wie "oozes greatness," critics call for her return to "where she belongs." But the gender divide gets challenged in golf pretty regularly; transgendered golfer Mianne Bagger has competed in women's tournaments and denies that her hitting abilities are beyond those of her competitors; and golf great Annika Sorenstam has played in past PGA Tour events and taken flak quite similar to the criticism Wie's getting now. Differences in physical strength may set the male golf game apart from the female, but not so much that the two genders can never compete on the same course.

Golfer Chris DiMarco suggested the criticism is for Wie's own good: "I'd like to see [Wie] play maybe some more events [against] girls her age, and not only win, but whip them up by a lot," he told the Daily News. "That's what breeds confidence." Of course, qualifying to play among the sport's biggest talents is probably pretty confidence-building, too. Describing the PGA Tour experience, Wie said, "I can't explain how good I felt. It was pretty cool."

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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