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My Shot

My Shot: Michelle Wie

Golf's former child prodigy on nightmares, haters, the best bodies on tour, taking old guys' money, and connecting with a puppy named Lola

January 2014

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, my dreams at night were filled with balloons and Pikachu, from Pokémon. Not anymore. In my recurring golf dream, I'm walking to the first tee and can't get there. I keep passing the same part of the clubhouse. My tee time is in one minute, the clock is ticking and I'm walking faster, but I can't get anywhere.

IN ANOTHER DREAM, I'm in a shopping-cart race, clattering around the floor of a huge hotel. If I lose the race, I die. The doors to the rooms are open, and as my cart races by I look in and see bathtubs filled with blood. Like the movie "The Shining," except the feeling of impending doom is worse. Nice, huh?

I WATCH AND READ too much stuff with gore and violence. That's where the dreams come from. I was hooked on the Showtime series "Dexter." I loved the novel Battle Royale. But the carryover isn't just dreams. After I watched the movie "Flight," in which a plane goes down in graphic detail, I began having a terrible time flying. A little turbulence, and I start sweating. I've grabbed the hands of strangers next to me, thinking, This is it. Maybe I should change my viewing habits.

AIR HUGS on the LPGA Tour are getting to be a little much. You'll see the players air hug each other and each of the caddies. In a threesome, that's five hugs per player. In a weird way I kind of like them, but at the Solheim Cup it got a little nuts. When a match ended, you hugged not only your opponents and their caddies but each of your teammates. You air hugged the captains, your teammates' spouses, their parents and siblings, and assorted others. Total air-hug-fest. You sort of have to do it, because if you offer only a handshake it looks like an affront. Stacy Lewis and I are air-hug dissenters. We've agreed to at least not air hug each other. But I'm skeptical whether it will catch on.

MY BIG GOAL FOREVER was to play in the Masters. Some people don't remember that I nearly pulled it off. In 2005, I lost in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Publinx. If I'd won that match and two more, I would have gone to Augusta. In a way I'm glad it didn't happen. When you achieve your ultimate dream at age 15, it makes it hard to set new goals. A part of you will always say, What else is there?

I HAVE NO REGRETS about playing in men's events. In fact, I don't regret anything. If I were offered an exemption to a PGA Tour tournament tomorrow, I'd decline. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't accept in the future. Never say never, you know?

YOU'LL HEAR young adults say, "My mom is my best friend." I find that kind of creepy. The parental thing doesn't mix with the friend thing. My mom and I cook and shop together, and we talk a lot. We're close. But she'll always be my mom, and that relationship is different from the ones I have with friends like Christina Kim and Jane Park. They know things about me that my mom doesn't, and vice versa. You can't channel everything you think and feel with one person. It isn't healthy.

I'VE ALWAYS BEEN FRUGAL. I'm not the type who will spend $7,000 on a handbag. When I was young, I got a plain mailing envelope from my dad. Any money that came in—allowance, birthday money, everything—went into that envelope. I kept a ledger of everything that went in and out. My goal was to save enough money so I could buy a car by the time I got my driver's license, and I did it. I still have that envelope.

SOME OF THE MONEY in that envelope came from golf gambling when I was an amateur. I was ruthless on the old guys who thought they could beat me. I also made money playing poker. When I was 12, my dad invited me to sit in with him and his buddies at their regular poker game. I caught on fast and did well. But as I got older, I lost my poker face. Once that's gone, there's no getting it back. So I quit.

IN 2003, I went to the Champions Skins Game at Wailea Golf Club. The players were Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer. Watching them hit balls on the range, Mr. Nicklaus was the most impressive. There was something about his trajectory and the sound his ball made when it came off the clubface. Mr. Nicklaus had lost a lot of distance—I played in the pro-am with him and played the same tees—but it was clear how he won all those majors.

I WAS AT ANOTHER EVENT with Gary Player. Out of the blue he says, "Michelle, hit me in the stomach." I didn't want to punch him, so I kind of poke him instead. He says, "No, I want you to really hit me!" He widens his stance and clenches his stomach. Now I really hit him. I'm no fighter, but I hit him as hard as I could. It hurt my hand. It didn't faze him. He pointed to his stomach and said, "A thousand sit-ups a day" and kept walking.

FOUR YEARS AGO, I walked into a pet store knowing I couldn't have a dog. I travel too much and just can't fit one into my life. That's always how it starts, right? The person at the pet store asked me if I'd like to handle one of the puppies. I saw a little Pomeranian mix and said, "I'll try that one." After 10 minutes I handed her back to the worker and walked toward the door. Halfway there, I turn around and ask if I can hold the dog again. This went on for six hours. Back and forth. Three hours into it, I gave the dog a name: Lola. Once you've named the dog, it's over. She's coming with you.

WHY ARE SOUTH KOREAN women on the LPGA Tour so good? The answer might lie in archery. The South Korean women's team has won nearly every gold medal since archery began as an Olympic sport. Archery is super demanding in terms of focus, poise, mental discipline and the amount of practice required to excel. South Korean women have those qualities. They translate incredibly well to golf.

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