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The Education Of Michelle Wie

Continued (page 3 of 3)

The quest will include her everpresent parents. They shadowed Wie during her regular practice sessions in Northern California, traipsing along in a golf cart, and they travel with her to every LPGA event. The habit drew not-so-muffled criticism over the years, and it seems their role will not subside once Wie is a college graduate.

B.J. comes across as calm and rational, but that's not always the image Bo projects. She's a onetime amateur champion in South Korea, openly emotional when watching her daughter play. Observers describe her as living and dying with every shot as she follows Michelle at tournaments, screaming at times. There are two ways to view this. On one hand, Wie's parents allowed Michelle some independence at Stanford. Then again, they lived in Palo Alto and now will join her in Jupiter.

"They've played such a key role in her golf to this point, I can't see them exiting the scene," Leadbetter says. "The good thing now is, they give her space. They know she doesn't need the babysitting she maybe did at 15 or 16."

Wie envisions a day in the not-too-distant future, maybe three or four years out, when her parents stop traveling with her. That day also isn't here yet, and she insists it's her call.

"There obviously will be a point in my life where I don't need them, but right now I still feel like I need their guidance and help in my golf game," Wie says. "They've seen me play since I was 4, so they know things other people can't see. ... They'll always be very involved. That's just the relationship we have. Their involvement is going to be a little bit less and less, but I still feel very comfortable having them with me [on trips]. I don't feel like it's a burden. They help me a lot."

The equation ultimately comes back to how Wie performs inside the ropes. She's clearly a creative person, and Cockerill hopes to see that creativity in her game--rather than remain robotic around the greens. Wie has relentlessly tinkered with her putting the past few years, from trying a long putter to frequently changing grips. Leadbetter, who describes her as a very good putter earlier in her career, says she became "too mechanical."

Wie, to her credit, shows little interest in living off her vapor trail of hype. As she sits in CoHo Coffee House (where caricatures of Stanford alums on the wall range from Tiger Woods and Chelsea Clinton to Ted Koppel and Reese Witherspoon), she strikes a tone of unmistakable urgency.

"Right now, I feel like I need to prove to myself and other people that I can do great things," Wie says. "I want people to keep noticing me for what I am doing, not what I have done."

She's fiercely proud, and understandably so, of what she will be doing June 17--returning to Stanford for commencement ceremonies. The question is, will she have the same fierce pride about what she does after that?

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