Michelle Wie gets the best of both worlds

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“I might not be playing,” she said. “I might be burned out. I’m not a person who 24 hours a day can only think, live, eat and breathe golf. I’m not that kind of a person. If I did that, I might be fed up with it. Here, I learned how to live on my own, to do things on my own. My relationship with my parents changed. You change from being a kid to someone your parents respect.”

Wie first gained attention when she played in a junior-pro event at the Sony Open at age 12, and PGA Tour players would stop to watch her swing on the practice range. It was Tom Lehman who called her the “Big Wiesy,” because the fluid swing reminded him of Ernie Els.

She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at age 13, the youngest USGA winner of an event with no age limit. A year later, she shot 68 in the Sony Open and missed the cut by one shot. She shared the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Women’s Open at 15, and the next year had a chance to win three LPGA majors on the back nine.

Even when Annika Sorenstam was at the height of her game, Wie drew the biggest crowds.

That began to change when she injured her wrist _ only later finding out she had broken three bones _ and continued to play. She withdrew from one tournament on the verge of shooting 88, which would have meant being ineligible to play the LPGA Tour for a year, then showed up the next week for a major. She broke par only twice that year. She withdrew from the Women’s Open.

She looked miserable. She was miserable.

What saved her was showing up at The Farm to start her freshman year.

“A lot of my life, I was doing … even now, going to college, I’m not doing what everyone thinks I should be doing. Everyone has an opinion about me,” Wie said. “I knew I wanted to go to school. After I had my injury, it changed the way I was thinking. I was struggling out there. It was a struggle every day to practice. And it made me realize that I’ve got to enjoy what I’m doing.

“Winning tournaments and being unhappy is not going to cut it.”

That she has made it through Stanford in less than five years is astounding. Wie figured it might take at least six. She takes school work on the road, mixes a full load of classes with practice when she’s home.

And while she is regarded as a part-time player, Wie plays as many tournaments as Woods.

“Ten years ago, all the stories were she was pushing too hard, playing with the guys, she’s going to burn out, and you know how this ends. Another example of a person who didn’t follow the right path and go to school,” LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan said. “Jump forward, and she’s top 20 in the world (No. 17), taking 18 credit hours, she’s getting a degree from Stanford.

“I believe the best for her is coming,” he said. “She really got it when everyone else predicted she wouldn’t. She got the last laugh. The coolest thing about Michelle Wie is she likes her life. And we all predicted she’d hate her life.”

Wie has always been about looking forward, though there is one regret. She was playing an LPGA event in 2007 and missed her high school graduation. She won’t make that mistake twice.

“I’ve already checked the schedule,” she said, beaming. “There’s no tournament that week. I’m going.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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