Michelle Wie and Her LPGA Career: Where did it go??
Wie is now 23 and not the teen sensation she was of years past; in her age or game. Everyone is looking at the new girl on the block, Lydia Ko. But where is Wie in her physical and mental game and what happened to the once phenom who was supposed to be the female version of Tiger Woods and take on the records of the likes of Annika. I have just one little thought, albeit a very personal feeling...stifled by her overbearing and protective parents. Let the kid grow within herself and game. Again, this is my thought only.
Last week, Michelle was in the field at the LPGA ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open and she just didn't seem like herself. Wie had the walk of someone beaten, not someone who wanted to beat the field. On the second round, her father, B.J. Wie and caddy, Mark Wallington were waiting at the range for the absent Wie. Where was she? Was she running late? Did she skip town? Both Mr. Wie and Mark seemed to be slightly worried checking their watches and both looking at the pin placement sheet for the day. Maybe this is the way she is every round now. Eventually she arrived but it looked as though she was simply somewhere else mentally. She took her place at the far right of the range and that's where the day starts for Wie.
Too much parental influence? You tell me
As Michelle Wie prepared to step up and take her first practice swing prior to round 2, her mom a former amateur champion, who was standing to the side, stopped her in mid first swing and reached in Wie's bag and took out a long stick. A silent partner of support she would look like at first glance...a parent who is simply there to cheer on her daughter...but now she was going to teach Miss Wie a few things before she takes to the second round. Her father, B.J., stood directly behind his daughter also offering insight to her misses and good shots.
With the 'stick' in hand, Bo stepped up beside her daughter and placed the stick on the left side of her head to keep it down and without movement as she swung through the ball. Wie has to continue with this 'help' from her mom during her warm-up routine. Once in a while she reached out to her caddy to ask for a tournament ball (the brand and ball she will play during the round) to check the ball flight for that day. (Thank goodness she gets them free because each one she hit was probably a $5+ shot!!)
Why on earth is her father and mother there to watch and comment on every swing? I pride myself on my mental coaching of young and veteran players and though I am not a Sports Psychologist or claim to be one, there is a time and place to work on your game. Prior to a round you must trust what you have brought to the course that day and make it be yours...confidently and passionately with positive thinking and visualization.
Wie finally was able to complete the range warm-up and the 'Wie Ensemble' moved to the practice putting green where Bo stationed herself on the green while B.J. stood in the background. In a strange kinda weirdness, B.J. took out binoculars from his backpack and drilled in on his daughter from only 50 feet away. What was he checking? Were her hands in the correct position; was her tension just right; or were her eyes not quite in the right position over the ball? Who would even think about asking....just seemed a bit over-bearing for a warm-up to a tournament round.
One thing we all have read or heard is that Michelle Wie has been crippled by her putting and it is a torment she can't seem to shake. Through her years on tour, we have seen her change putters, grips, putting styles and even the belly putter in the hopes of squashing the demons that create such lack of confidence with the flat stick. What struck me this week in watching Wie is her very unique and quite bizarre stance that has her almost parallel to the ground with her back. I know if it was me at this age or at Wie's, I would certainly need a massage after every round whether it be a practice round or tournament round.
It was recently reported at a tournament in Dubai that Michelle was on the putting green with Bo holding her head down, her father adjusting and positioning the line of her putter addressing the ball, and just to complete the 'warm-up', the caddie was voicing his opinion of the stroke. O. M. G. I could not handle all that stimulation and input!! I would just throw my arms up and say 'ENOUGH!!'
Can you say...Stifling behavior of the Parents?
Listen to this: During Michelle's freshman year it has been said that her parents, after moving as close as they could to the dormitory she was in (Stanford University rule all freshmen athletes had to live in the dorm), called almost every evening to be sure she was in her room and ready for bed. Now that isn't so bad...I mean she was a freshman! But now that the 23 year old, who signed a very large Nike contract years ago regardless of performance, has purchased her own home in Jupiter, you would think she would have some down time from her parents. Not so fast! Apparently, her parents have moved in with her to 'help' her with her career and make the best decisions. Really?!
My Final Thoughts (again these are my thoughts!!)
When she was 13-15 years old, the expectations were huge...and they should have been as she was dominating every amateur tournament and was said to have the best swing in golf -- man or woman. The talent she had provided us a glimpse of what she was on track to do...win Everything!!
Now let me say what people are saying, "what the hell went wrong and why has she only won 2 LPGA events?" I have even heard that she is the 'biggest disappointment for everyone'. Really?? Let 's see you get out there and compete on the world's stage and win every event. It really isn't as easy as you think.
Let us all give Miss Wie a break. She is only 23 and has an entire career ahead of her. Personally, I would like to see her parents step away and let the young phenom play her own game...not her dad's or her mom's game. She is a wonderful young lady with a fabulous personality. Please don't get me wrong, her parents just want the best for her I am sure. But when I was growing up in the amateur ranks, I can name you 3 girls who should have taken college and the LPGA Tour by storm, but their overbearing parents stifled those dreams with trying to live vicariously through their child. One father I can remember to this day stood behind his daughter on the practice range and yelled at her with every "non-perfect" swing. Really?? She was only 17!!!
Michelle has a natural talent unlike many but it appears to me as though multiple swing 'improvements' have turned her into a player she is not. Remember how Nancy Lopez started her swing--unorthodox press up of the hands and wrists...but she did OK!!!
Let her blossom into the natural athlete she is and allow her to shine through. Cut the attached string hold from her parents and let her grow within herself and her game. It is not too late!!! She can do this!! I can see it!! Will you see it too with me and cheer her on into the winner's circle!!
Thank you for reading. This is strictly from my heart and I want to see Michelle succeed! She totally deserves it!
By LPGA Pro/Staff Writer Kate Hughes
'keep smiling and always believe'