- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

Michelle Wie has decided to mock conventional wisdom with an anticlimactic announcement to accept the cash of professional golf days before her 16th birthday.

This is cause for deep mourning among certain quivering souls, ever on the lookout for another misguided child prodigy on a playing field.

We tend not to express the same fears around those in the entertainment industry.

Jodie Foster was a mere 14 years old when she played a waif-like prostitute in “Taxi Driver.”

To be consistent, we must rue her lost childhood as well and cite the anguish it caused along the way and note how badly it turned out for her.

Wie has been granted an estimated $10 million a year in endorsement money from Nike and Sony, which should assuage the encroaching wounds to her psyche.

As it was, Wie hardly fit the definition of an amateur. Hers has been a well-orchestrated phenomenon, with her striking facade displayed just teasingly enough, no doubt owing to the ubiquitous stage dad in her presence.

He is the bad guy or good guy in all this, the verdict still unclear.

Earl Woods is the model parent, Mary Pierce’s father the worst nightmare.

It takes all kinds, which is the point.

There is no certainty with Wie. It could be the best or worst decision of her young life or somewhere between the two.

But ask yourself this: Who turns down $10 million and all the millions to follow?

And why do we persist in clinging to the old but phony Olympic ideal that amateurism is somehow a higher calling? Try that line the next time a lender quotes you an interest rate.

Wie swings a golf club. She could be practicing umpteen hours a week to be a concert pianist, and no one would be the wiser or in a two-hankie lather.

The pseudo-child shrinks monitoring Wie’s development come with a finely tuned definition of normalcy, however hanging out at the shopping mall is essential to the development of a teen.

Wie is startlingly good, although she has yet to crack the win column on the LPGA Tour, which will be the real test of her star power.

She already has that transcendent quality about her, plain to see if your peepers are in working order. She fills up the lens as a 6-foot woman can. She strikes the ball with the power of the average player on the PGA Tour.

Until she giggles, it is easy to forget the tenderness of her years.

She brings a much-needed spirit to the LPGA, just as Tiger Woods did with the PGA.

She possesses all the requisite necessities to lead the LPGA to the cusp of must-see television, assuming she endeavors to be more than just another pretty face in the manner of Anna Kournikova.

No, don’t cry for Michelle. And don’t expect the worst.

The NBA tells us these stories play out in varying forms, from the meteoric burst of LeBron James to the interminable struggles of Kwame Brown. There is no template that fits all.

Jennifer Capriati advanced to the semifinals of the French Open at age 14 in 1990, only to hit bottom in three years as a rebellious shoplifter before eventually reclaiming her destiny.

Chris Evert was all of 16 when she captured the heart of America in the 1971 U.S. Open. It was only the beginning of a Hall of Fame career that concluded with 18 Grand Slam singles championships.

Despite a plethora of evidence that cuts lots of different ways, we remain conditioned to question the wisdom of a teen rushing into the professional sports arena.

Yet we never object to the minimum-wage teen who pushes a hamburger and fries across the counter.

Just because sports is America’s leading obsession, we tend to overlook the obvious.

Humans have a time no matter what they pursue or how quickly they pursue it, and the outcome is highly individualized.

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