Wie didn't make U.S. Open this year, but it's coming
Posted: Monday June 5, 2006 9:08PM; Updated: Tuesday June 6, 2006 10:14AM
Michelle Wie shot a one-over 143 Monday in trying to earn one of 18 qualifying spots for the U.S. Open.
In the history of American golf, nothing is as Old Guard as U.S. Open sectional qualifying -- two rounds in one day, often played on sly courses designed by imported Scotsmen that are guarded by clubhouses with creaking steps and suspect plumbing. On Monday alone there were 10 qualifying events across the country, with a total of 577 golfers playing for 56 spots in the field of the U.S. Open. As June final exams go, it's about as tough as it gets.
Among those 577 golfers -- including Mark O'Meara and Tom Lehman and other winners of major championships -- there was only one woman, Michelle Wie, a Hawaiian teenager whose parents were born in Korea. Maybe you've seen her on 60 Minutes. Wie does things her own way. She turned pro last year, while still a junior in high school. At 13 she was already talking about wanting to play on the PGA Tour. Now, at 16, she's getting closer. The old order, the old way of thinking, got nicked Monday.
It was an important step. On Monday there was a girl playing with the boys for the first time in a USGA sectional qualifier. A girl who, in the wet gray cool of early morning, was wearing dangling earrings and clam-digger pants and a coral-colored sweater that would look good on only one other golfer -- Arnold Palmer. Michelle Wie was at the Canoe Brook Country Club in the wilds of northern New Jersey, trying to earn a place in the field at the 106th U.S. Open, this year at Winged Foot, a tournament for which Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have already secured their spots. No woman has ever played in a U.S. Open before -- or the Masters or the British Open or the PGA Championship. No woman, for that matter, has played in the NBA or fought for the heavyweight title of the world, but things are changing. You've heard of Danica Patrick, right? Michelle Wie didn't qualify for the U.S. Open this year -- she needs to fix her putting game from 10 feet and in -- but some year she will. So will other women whose names we don't yet know.
Early Monday morning she was on the practice tee at Canoe Brook, warming up for a 12-hour day of golf. The other golfers -- at Canoe Brook there were 153 golfers playing for 18 spots -- were using the garden-variety striped range balls issued by the club. Wie, the youngest golfer in the field, was not. Her father, B.J., came onto the range carrying a plastic shopping bag filled with brand-new Nike practice balls, the brand she is paid to play, part of an overall endorsement deal worth over $10 million. It takes chutzpah to show up at a USGA event with your own practice balls, but the three Wies -- father, daughter and mother Bo --are not slaves to convention. B.J. Wie is more Richard Williams (father of Serena and Venus) than Earl Woods. For years now people have been saying that Michelle Wie should be playing against other girls in junior events, learning how to win. The father has never stopped to ask why.