Alternate Shot: Back to the future
Michelle Wie will turn 16 years old on Oct. 11.
By all accounts, it should be one heck of a Sweet 16 party.
Wie has announced her intentions to turn professional this week at a news conference in her native Honolulu. She reportedly will sign multimillion-dollar endorsement contracts with Nike and Sony soon thereafter.
So if you were going to slip a $10 bill into that birthday card for her, well, save your cash.
But the question remains: Is Wie turning professional too early? It's a debate that has attracted dueling sides in the golf world, and ESPN.com's Bob Harig and Golf World's Ron Sirak take up opposite ends in this week's version of Alternate Shot.
This is the right time for Michelle Wie to turn professional for two reasons. The first is competitive. Since it is clear she has no interest in developing her skills against top juniors, she might as well commit completely to professional golf. By turning pro now she will be able to schedule enough events to get the kind of competitive experience she needs to learn how to win and how to hold up under pressure down the stretch.
Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Tiger Woods all chose a path in which they learned a mind-set of domination by winning against juniors. Wie is following a very different path. At least now, in being a professional, she can throw herself whole hog onto that path.
The other reason Wie should turn pro now is financial. Her market value is very high right now, and though it likely will remain high -- and possibly go even higher -- as time passes, the fact is that as other teens have proven they could win as professionals, the uniqueness of Wie was undermined. Wie came within one holed bunker shot by Birdie Kim at the U.S. Women's Open from taking a big economic hit. If Pressel had won the Open, she would have been the flavor of the month. The time is right. Now, even if Wie underperforms as a professional, she already has gotten rich.
-- Ron Sirak
At first glance, it would appear silly to leave $10 million on the table. For Michelle Wie and her family, this has been a difficult decision, and nobody can blame them for taking the money. It is expensive to play golf as an amateur, and it is quite obvious Wie can cash in. So she will.
But it is not as though Wie is a college football player who is risking injury and future millions. With Wie only about to turn 16, her game is only going to get better, and she will only be worth more in, say, two years, when she could walk right onto the LPGA Tour.
In the meantime, her legend would grow as she competes -- still as a teenager -- against the best players in both women's and men's golf. When there is no money at stake, there is little pressure other than the self-inflicted variety. She could continue to pick her spots, maybe even competing in some prestigious amateur events. And what about pursuing her dream of playing in The Masters by qualifying through the U.S. Amateur Public Links?
Now, however, Wie's name goes on her bag. Expectations rise. She is but a junior in high school, remember. She plans to continue her education, which is commendable. But trying to juggle that with being a pro golfer, even on a limited basis, is dicey. What's the rush? Wie has plenty of time.
-- Bob Harig