By John Strege
Parody, a wise man wrote, is homage gone sour. There was a time that Michelle Wie was the most celebrated girl in women’s golf for playing against men.
She had teed herself up, and the Onion, the satire website that calls itself America’s Finest News Source, pulled out driver.
“In an announcement that has rocked the world of professional golf,” it wrote in November 2006, “longtime men’s golfer Michelle Wie said Monday that she is planning to participate in the LPGA's season-opening SBS Open next February, which would make her the first woman to enter such an event since 32 women competed in the ADT Championship last weekend.”
(Getty Images photo)
She once said her goal was to play in the Masters. She reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. She played eight PGA Tour events before her 18th birthday -- and missed the cut in all of them. At 19, she was the subject of a book, “The Sure Thing: The Making and Unmaking of Golf Phenom Michelle Wie.”
Those most often identified as responsible for the unmaking were overbearing parents. As for those citing deficiencies in her game, her critics included three of the game’s most prominent voices, those of Annika Sorenstam, Judy Rankin and Dottie Pepper. Even her instructor, David Leadbetter, once invoked the Titanic to describe her career.
And yet? And yet she continued to do it her way.
And so it was that Wie won the U.S Women’s Open on Sunday, beating Stacy Lewis, the No. 1 player in the world, by two shots, and then embracing her ubiquitous parents, mother Bo and father B.J., the duo held responsible for the shipwreck that had just won the national championship.
Wie, to her credit, seems disinclined to gloat, and has even acknowledged errors. “I definitely made a lot of mistakes along the road,” she told NBC on Saturday. “I just learned from a lot of it. There’s ups and there’s downs. Obviously being under a microscope magnifies everything. But if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m just really grateful for everything. Just because of all the downs it made me more grateful for these opportunities I have today.”
Late Sunday, she stooped over the ball on the 18th green at Pinehurst No. 2, her back parallel to the ground, a style of putting wholly her own and widely mocked.
"I can't watch Michelle Wie putt like this," Ian Poulter wrote on Twitter a year ago. "It's horrible." Around the same time, Rankin said she saw "nothing good about it. If I were advising her, I would tell her, 'enough with that experiment, let’s do something that might be more productive.'”
Wie, steadfastly oblivious, calmly rolled in a three-foot par putt to complete 72 holes on treacherous greens without a three-putt.
Yes, she did it her way, stifling the mockery in the process, and is again celebrated, this time for the right reasons.