Stanford is next big step for Wie
HONOLULU -- Note to incoming Stanford University freshmen: Request Michelle Wie as your roommate next year. Trust us on this one.
First off, she won't be around much, continuously globetrotting in her never-ending pursuit to seemingly play every single professional golf tour in the world, without retaining membership to any of them. It's a noble goal, and one that makes her a cherished roommate. Want to skip that early-morning PoliSci class and sleep in? Blare the stereo at night? Have a, uh, "friend" sleep over? Well, good news. If it's Omega European Masters week, then all of a sudden you've got the biggest single on campus.
This could be a long-term deal, too. Wie may never catch Tiger Woods on the golf course, but she's intent on going 1-up in the classroom, knowing the top-ranked player left Stanford after only two years. "I'm definitely determined to graduate, whether it's four years, five years, six years, seven years, eight years, 100 years," Wie said this week. "I'm not really sure what my schedule is going to be like, but I'm definitely going to play some golf, some school, some golf, some school."
Mom and Dad will love her, too. Instead of calling home for a loan every weekend, you can hit up your new roomie. Wie is, at 17, a $20 million woman -- actually, Golf Digest lists her overall 2006 income at $20,235,224 -- trailing only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer, Vijay Singh and Greg Norman among golfers. She is ahead of such luminaries as Ernie Els, Annika Sorenstam, John Daly and -- gulp -- Jack Nicklaus. Just a guess, but the Golden Bear probably won't be hanging around your dorm anytime soon.
Wie will be the most popular kid at Stanford in the fall, not for her endorsement deals or ability to crack a 300-yard drive, but for that infectious smile and willingness to just be one of the gang. When she received the news that she'd been accepted into Stanford -- via e-mail at exactly 1 p.m. local time on Dec. 15 -- she was surrounded by friends, excitedly hugging each of them, her eyes welling up with tears of happiness. No Nike reps. No marketing execs. Just some buddies.
See, she likes to include friends in her success. If you can deal with an overachieving celebrity for a roommate (and yes, she is an overachiever; her critics will point out that she has yet to win a professional golf tournament, but name one other who has accomplished so much, so soon), here's guessing you'll get invited to a lot of celebratory dinners in her honor.
Wie will find success, the kind the world has been expecting for a while now, ever since she made her PGA Tour debut as a 14-year-old in the Sony Open. OK, so you might not be toasting a victory at the 2010 Masters, but then again, neither is anyone else on campus. Here are some of the joys you will share with Michelle over the next four years: Her first career LPGA title (though that may come before she gets to school), her first major championship (that too) and her first made cut in a PGA Tour event.
You read that right. Wie will make the cut against the world's best men, but honestly, it's not such a grandiose feat. She came close as a 14-year-old, falling a stroke shy at the 2004 Sony Open, and has since upped her ambitions. So, chances are, unless she pulls a top-20 finish, she may not feel much like celebrating anyway.
One thing you can't do? Bust her chops for competing in men's tournaments. As Wie prepares to compete in her hometown PGA Tour event for the fourth straight year, she's been questioned as to whether her motivation derives from within or is a tool of the promotional teams from her various sponsors.
"I guess being the only girl on the baseball team when I was 4 years old was also a marketing plan. Not! It's what I want to do," Wie said. "It's what I've grown up with, ever since I was 4 years old. Playing basketball with the boys on my lunch break. I enjoy it. Some people take it as, 'It's a marketing plan to make more money, blah, blah,' but they don't realize it's what I want to do and I enjoy it. You can't trade happiness for anything."
All of which leads us to the No. 1 reason you'll want her as your roommate next year: She may need you more than you need her. We're talking about a young woman who has already dealt with gender bias, age bias and now, well, athletic bias, as more established players have taken shots at her inability to remain competitive against the men and win against the women. "She's just not ready for it," Stuart Appleby said recently. "She's certainly not proving anything except that she can't play with the men at her level right now."
You can sympathize. You're a 17-year-old, just like her. Got a bright future, a Stanford education in front of you. Anyone ever say you're just not good enough? Well, Michelle's been hearing it for years. She could probably use a kind ear and a shoulder to lean on every once in a while.
It's as if Wie is living her life back to front, reversing the usual order of college education before professional career, like a movie which discloses the ending before showing its plot. This has given her a unique perspective on life, sounding the part of a wise sage by issuing comments like, "As you get older, you find less enjoyment in the smaller things," all the while speaking of "bringing the fun to a higher degree."
Michelle Wie will be searching for that higher degree, so to speak, at Stanford next year. She'll play golf, study for school, travel the world and, yes, even find time for a little fun. You just might want to join her.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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