- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 14, 2012

PALO ALTO, CALIF. (AP) - Michelle Wie did not go to Stanford to play golf, at least not the game that brought her worldwide fame as a teenager.

“One time, me and a couple of guys played campus golf,” said Wie, sitting in a coffee house on campus after her longest day of classes. “You hit tennis balls with a golf club. You start at the frats and end at the fountain, so that’s like one hole. We hit cars, we hit some bikers. Just goofy things that you don’t usually do.”

These are the goofy times she wouldn’t trade for anything.

Moments like tailgating at the Fiesta Bowl before Stanford played Oklahoma State. Sitting _ mostly standing, actually _ in the student section behind the bench at Cardinal basketball games. Spending all day roasting a pig before a Super Bowl party. Catching up with friends at the Coho Cafe, where cartoon figures of famous alumni are painted on the walls.

There’s a caricature of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, and even one of Tiger Woods, who won an NCAA title at Stanford. Wie’s face is not among them. She’s a student, just like everyone else.

And she appears to be loving life more than ever.

“My life has progressed in various ways than I thought it was going to,” said Wie, who laughs easily these days. “I’m more rooted in what I’m doing. I guess that’s called growing up.”

For much of her teenage years, all Wie heard was that she was going about life the wrong way. She was playing too much golf, way too early. She was playing against the men. She turned pro as a junior in high school.

Turns out she knew what she was doing all along.

In an era where young players don’t make it all the way through college, if they even go to college, Wie has had the best of both worlds. She’s an LPGA Tour player who has two career wins and finished 18th on the money list last year. And she’s a senior at Stanford, expected to finish next month and go through graduation in June with a degree in communications.

“I think she’s happiest when she’s at school,” said Juli Inkster, who occasionally sees Wie when she comes out to Los Altos Country Club to practice. Inkster’s husband, Brian, is the head pro.

“Time will tell as far as her golf,” Inkster said. “I still think she’s got the talent to be really good. I’m not sure what she wants. She’s still got a ton of talent. And she’s happy being a student. She had a boyfriend on the football team. She said she’s graduating this year. It’s pretty impressive.”

Wie’s parents live near campus, and they accompany her when she practices and when she plays on the LPGA Tour. She is playing her first tournament this week in Thailand, and will stay out for the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. Wie also travels with a Pomeranian she named Lola, which she bought on a whim after browsing through a pet store. College kids are impulsive that way.

It’s easy to speculate that Wie’s development as a player has been slowed by not devoting herself entirely to golf. She looks at it from a different perspective.

What if she had never gone to college?

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