Michelle Sung Wie (pronounced /ˈwiː/) (Korean: Wie Seong-mi Hangul: 위성미 Hanja: 魏聖美, born October 11, 1989) is an American professional golfer who plays on the LPGA Tour. In 2006, she was named in a Time magazine article: "one of 100 people who shape our world. At age 10, she became the youngest player to qualify for USGA amateur championship. Wie would also become the youngest winner of the US Women's Amateur public links and the youngest to qualify for a LPGA tour event. Wie turned professional with an enormous amount of hype and endorsements, but she has failed to win a LPGA event, which has led to her career being viewed as a disappointment.
Family and education
Wie was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her parents are both natives of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) who came to the United States in the 1980s. Her father, Byung-wook Wie, is a former professor of transportation management at the University of Hawaii. Her mother was South Korea's women's amateur golf champion in 1985 Her paternal grandfather, a native of Jangheung, Jeollanam-do, was an emeritus professor at Seoul National University.
Wie graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii in June 2007. On December 19, 2006, she announced that she would be attending Stanford University where there are family ties, as her paternal grandfather was a visiting professor and an aunt and uncle are both graduates. She enrolled in September 2007 as a freshman but as a professional golfer, Wie is not eligible under NCAA rules to play for Stanford's golf team. During her first two years at Stanford she attended only during the fall and winter quarters, taking a leave of absence to play professional golf during the spring and summer quarters.
Amateur career 2000–2005
Wie began playing golf at the age of four and eleven years later declared that "The first time I grabbed a golf club, I knew that I'd do it for the rest of my life." In the summer of 2000, at the age of ten, she became the youngest player ever to qualify for the Women's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, a record that stood for eight years until broken by a fellow Hawaiian, Allisen Corpuz, who was five months younger than Wie. In 2001, at the age of 11, she won both the Hawaii State Women’s Stroke Play Championship and the Jennie K. Wilson Women’s Invitational, the oldest and most prestigious women’s amateur tournament in Hawaii. She also advanced into match play at the Women's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and shot a personal-best 64 from the 5,400-yard tees at the Olomana Golf Links course in Hawaii.
2002 saw her win the Hawaii State Open Women's Division by thirteen shots over LPGA player Cindy Rarick and become, at age 12, the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event, the Takefuji Classic held in Wie's home state of Hawaii. Her record stood for five years until 2007, when it was broken by 11-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn. At the Takefuji Classic, from February 2008-Mar 2, 2002, Wie missed the cut after shooting a 6-over 146.
At the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship she became the youngest player to make an LPGA cut, and shot 66 in the 3rd round, tying the amateur record for a women's major championship and played in the final group with Annika Sörenstam and eventual winner, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc. In June 2003, Wie won the Women's Amateur Public Links tournament, becoming the youngest person ever, male or female, to win a USGA adult event. She also made the cut at the US Women's Open, the youngest player to do so.
She was given a sponsor's exemption to the 2004 Sony Open in Hawaii, becoming the fourth and youngest female to play a PGA Tour event. she shot 72-68 to finish at even par, missing the cut by one stroke. After finishing fourth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and became the youngest woman to play the Curtis Cup as part of the victorious U.S.team. Wie started her 2005 season by accepting another sponsor's invitation to play in the PGA Tour Sony Open in Hawaii where she again missed the cut. Her next outing at the LPGA SBS Open at Turtle Bay was more successful as she finished second, the spot she also finished at the LPGA Championship. At the U.S. Women's Open, she finished the third round in a three-way tie for the lead, but scored an 82 in the final round, and finished tied for 23rd. The week after, she played in the John Deere Classic, her third outing at a PGA Tour event, missing the cut by two strokes. After becoming the first female golfer to qualify for a USGA national men's tournament, tying for first place in a 36-hole qualifier for the U.S. Amateur Public Links, Wie made the top 64 in the stroke play rounds to qualify for match play. She lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Clay Ogden. In Europe she played in the Evian Masters, a major on the Ladies European Tour and a regular LPGA event, finishing in a tie for second. The week after, she finished tied for third at the Women's British Open, the fourth and final major of the year.
On October 5, 2005, a week before her 16th birthday, Wie announced that she was turning professional, signing sponsorship contracts with Nike and Sony reportedly worth more than ten million dollars per year. At the same time she announced a pledge of half a million dollars for the U.S. Golf Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.
Pre-LPGA membership (2005-2006)
Having turned professional Wie was not a member of any professional tour. LPGA Tour membership age requirements require a golfer to be 18 although some players such as Morgan Pressel and Aree Song have successfully petitioned for an exemption to join at age 17. Wie chose not to request an exemption and was thus only allowed to participate in a limited number of LPGA Tour events when given a sponsor's exemption from 2005 to 2008. She also chose not to participate in the Tour's Qualifying Tournaments (or "Q-School") until December 2008 when she finished 7th to gain LPGA membership for the 2009 season.
Wie played her first professional event in the 2005 LPGA Samsung World Championship where she was disqualified from a fourth-place finish for signing an incorrect scorecard. A journalist (Michael Bamberger) reported she had illegally dropped the ball closer to the hole than its original lie the day after she completed her third round. Her other professional event of 2005 at the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour saw her shoot four over par to miss the cut.
2006 started with the PGA Tour Sony Open at her home course, the Waialae Country Club, Hawaii where she again missed the cut, this time by four strokes. In the initial Rolex World Golf Rankings in February 2006 , Wie was placed third behind Annika Sörenstam and Paula Creamer. She rose to second place in July but her limited schedule meant she failed to play the minimum of 15 world-wide professional women's tournaments over a twenty-four month period and dropped out of the rankings entirely. In August 2006, the calculation of the rankings was revised such that any player who had accumulated points in fewer than 35 tournaments had her ranking calculated as if she had played in 35. After the change, Wie's ranking dropped to 7th.
In her first two tournaments on the LPGA Tour in early 2006, she gained a third place finish in the Fields Open in Hawaii finishing one stroke off the lead, and finished in a tie for third in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, again finishing one stroke behind. May 2006 saw her play the Asian Tour SK Telecom Open becoming the second woman (after Se Ri Pak) to make the cut at a men's tournament in South Korea. Wie reportedly received US$700,000 in appearance fees at an event that offered US$600,000 in total prize money. In all, she reportedly netted US$5 million in appearance and endorsement money for the two-week trip.
May 2006 also had her become the first female medalist in a local qualifier for the Men's U.S. Open. She did not compete in the "easier" Hawaii final stage qualifier as she would have been unable to play at the LPGA Championship the following week. She played at Summit, NJ vying for one of 16 available spots but finished 59th and did not advance. At the LPGA Championship Wie finished two strokes off the lead, tied for fifth and followed this up with a tie for third at the US Women's Open. In July, she played in the LPGA HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship where she lost in the quarterfinals 4 and 3 to eventual champion Brittany Lincicome.
In July Wie played in the PGA John Deere Classic. After a 6 over par first round she reached 8 over par and 10 shots above the projected cut line before withdrawing from the tournament after the 9th hole, citing heat exhaustion. Two weeks later, she returned to the LPGA Tour, finishing in a tie for second at the Evian Masters, one stroke off the lead and tied for 26th at the Women's British Open where she drew controversy for hitting a piece of moss on her back swing in a bunker. This resulted in a two-stroke penalty. In a post-round interview Wie said "I guess I knew the rule wrong, from what I always knew...if you swing through it everything would be OK.
In September, she competed in the Omega European Masters on the men's European Tour where she finished last among the 156 competitors, 15 strokes over par after shooting, missing the cut by 14 strokes, although tournament organizers reported that many of the 9,500 spectators on the first day came to see Wie. A week later, in her third 2006 appearance on the PGA Tour at the 84 Lumber Classic, she finished 14 over par after two rounds, 23 strokes behind the leaders. At the LPGA Tour Samsung World Championship, Wie finished in 17th place in the 20-player field, 21 strokes behind the leader. Her last event of 2006 saw Wie compete the Casio World Open on the men's Japan Golf Tour where she finished last, 27 shots behind the leaders. With the conclusion of the Casio tournament, Wie had played 14 consecutive rounds of tournament golf without breaking par – eight on the LPGA Tour, two on the European Tour, two on the PGA Tour and two on the Japan Golf Tour. By the end of 2006, her first full year as a professional, she had missed the cut in 11 out of 12 tries against men, and remained winless in all 33 professional women's tournaments she had entered, the last 9 as a professional.
Pre-LPGA membership (2007-2008)
Wie accepted her fourth consecutive sponsor's exemption to the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Hawaii in January where she missed the cut by 14 strokes, finishing third from last in the 144-player field, 25 strokes behind the second-round leader. Her next competition, after a four-month absence and reported injuries to both wrists, was at the LPGA's Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika where she was 14-over par through 16 holes in the first round before withdrawing, after a conversation with her agent, citing an aggravated wrist injury.
The withdrawal was controversial due to the LPGA Rule of 88, which states that a non-LPGA member shooting a score of 88 or more is forced to withdraw and banned from LPGA co-sponsored events for the rest of the year. Wie claimed the injury and not the rule of 88 was the cause of the withdrawal but some observers, including one of her playing partners, Alena Sharp questioned this claim. There was further controversy when both Sharp and Wie's other playing partner, Janice Moodie, questioned the involvement of Wie's father, B.J.. They said he appeared to give Wie advice during the course of play could have resulted in a two-stroke penalty but as Wie withdrew, this became a moot point.
Wie was seen two days later practicing at the site of the LPGA Championship in Bulle Rock, Maryland, which drew criticism from Ginn Tribute host Annika Sörenstam who said, "I just feel there's a little bit of lack of respect and class just to kind of leave a tournament like that and come out and practice here. At the LPGA championship Wie was 3 over par and bang on the cutline after two days to extend her run of cuts made at LPGA majors to 13 but shot rounds of 83 and 79 on the weekend to finish last of those who made the cut, 35 strokes behind the eventual winner. Wie entered the US Women's Open in June but withdrew midway through the second round after hitting her second shot out of the rough on the 10th hole citing a wrist injury. Her tournament score through 27 holes was 17-over par, 22 strokes behind the second-round leader.
At the Evian Masters in July, Wie broke her year-long streak of 24 consecutive rounds at or over par by shooting a second-round one-under par 71 but shooting a 12 over par 84 in the third round led to her finishing 20 strokes behind winner Natalie Gulbis,third from last of those making the cut. One week later at the Women's British Open Wie shot rounds of 73 and 80, missing the cut by two strokes, her first missed cut in an LPGA Tour event since 2003, and her first missed cut in a major.
Wie next played in August at the Canadian Women's Open, where she was invited as a sponsor's exemption. She shot rounds of 75 and 74 on the par 71 course, missing the cut by four strokes. The following week, with another sponsor's exemption, Wie played in the Safeway Classic, at Portland, Oregon. After shooting rounds of 79 and 75, she missed the cut by six strokes and finished 21 strokes behind the second round leader. Three weeks after beginning her freshman year at Stanford University, Wie played as a sponsor exemption in the limited field Samsung World Championship, finishing 19th out of the 20 player field, 36 strokes behind the winner.
In December 2007, Wie was ranked at #4 in the Forbes Top 20 Earners Under 25 with an annual earnings of 19 million dollars.
2008 was the first time since 2004 Wie was not granted one of four available sponsor exemptions to play the PGA Tour Sony Open. She started the year on a sponsor's exemption at the LPGA Fields Open where she shot 69,73,78 to finish tied for 72nd, last among players making the cut. Two LPGA sponsor exemptions were offered and accepted to the Safeway International and Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill tournaments but Wie was unable to play at the Safeway as she announced she had injured her wrist practicing. She did play the Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill, shooting rounds of 75 and 71, missing the cut by four strokes. Wie's next competitive appearance was her first on the Ladies European Tour playing on a sponsor invitation in the Ladies German Open where she finished sixth place, seven strokes behind the winner, fellow eighteen year-old Amy Yang.
In June Wie played in Maryland at a sectional qualifier for the 2008 U.S. Women's Open. She finished in second place, earning one of the 35 qualification spots available. She shot an eight-over-par 81 in the first round of 2008 U.S. Women's Open and ended up with a 10-over total of 156, missing the cut. July saw Wie playing on a sponsor exemption at the LPGA State Farm Classic. She was in the middle of her third round when it was realized she had failed to sign her second round scorecard. Event organizers waited until the conclusion of that round to notify her that she was disqualified in order to give her an opportunity to explain what had happened. She was one stroke off the lead at the time. Two days later Wie announced that she had accepted an invitation to play her eighth PGA Tour event in the alternate field Legends Reno-Tahoe Open. She shot rounds of 73 and 80, missing the cut by nine strokes.
Wie had expressed her desire to attempt to earn membership on the LPGA Tour for the 2009 season by earning the equivalent of 80th place on the 2008 money list through her earnings at the events she played in through sponsor exemptions. When she failed to reach this goal, she entered an LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament. At the tournament, held from September 16 through 19 at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, she finished tied for 4th place. This was sufficient to advance her to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament held in Daytona Beach, Florida in December, 2008. During the Final Qualifying Tournament, Wie finished in a tie for 7th place to make her eligible to play full time on the LPGA Tour in 2009.
LPGA membership 2009-
After passing LPGA Qualifying School in December 2008, Wie declared that she still planned to play in tournaments against men. However for the second consecutive year, she did not receive a sponsor exemption to play in the Sony Open in Hawaii where she had played four years in a row from 2004 through 2007. Her first tournament as an LPGA member was the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay where she shot 66, 70 to move into a tie with Angela Stanford going into the final round of the tournament. Wie held a three-stroke lead with eight holes remaining, but ended up losing to Stanford by three strokes.
It was reported in early March, 2009, that Wie had left the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent agency that had represented her since she turned pro in 2005, and would be signing with sports agency IMG.
In Wie's next two tournaments, the J Golf Phoenix LPGA International and the Kraft Nabisco Championship, she struggled to make the cut, finishing on the cut line after the second round both times. She finished tied for 57th and 67th respectively in the two events. In the Kraft Nabisco, a major on the LPGA Tour, she shot a score of 81 in both the second and third rounds. In mid-April, Wie traveled to Korea to play in a LPGA of Korea event, the Lotte Mart Open, for the first time. She finished tied for 36, earning $1,536. She spent the next two months playing in every available LPGA tournament, with results ranging from a tie for 3rd at the Sybase Classic to a tie for 54th at the State Farm Classic, the same event at which she was disqualified in 2008 for failing to sign her scorecard. At the second major of the year, the LPGA Championship, she finished tied for 23rd, her best finish in a major since 2006. During this tournament she also scored her first recorded hole-in-one as a professional.
The day after the end of the LPGA Championship, Wie participated in a sectional qualifying tournament for the 2009 U.S. Women's Open to be held during the first week in July. She joined 110 players at the Rockville, Maryland site, one of several sites around the country set up for qualifying purposes on that day. Wie shot rounds of 70 and 74 and missed a 10-way playoff by one shot.
Some fans and media have commented that Wie has increasingly dressed in inappropriate clothing during golf tournaments. These criticisms began in the summer of 2004 when Wie was 14 years old and increased after Wie began wearing Nike-provided clothing in 2006.
2007 wrist injury claim
In the first week of February 2007, it was reported that Wie hurt her left wrist in a fall while running, though when family members acting as her spokespeople were asked by the media, they declined either to give any details on the nature of the injury, other than to report that she was wearing a hard cast, or to state what treatment was done, citing privacy. Initially, her public relations staff reported that she would be away from golf for 4 to 6 weeks but this stretched until the end of May. In response to the lack of information and prolonged absence, some golf fans and LPGA players, including Brittany Lincicome, questioned whether Wie and her parents had fabricated the injury in order to give her a reason to take a break from golf. More questions were raised about her wrist injury claim after Wie's withdrawal from the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika in May 2007 when she flirted with the Rule of 88 before withdrawing citing a "tweaked wrist. Her playing partners were divided in their opinions. Alena Sharp questioned her injury claim but Janice Moodie stated that she heard Wie say "Ouch!" after hitting her tee shot on the first hole, which was the group's 10th of the day. Wie had said that was precisely when she began feeling the pain. Moodie said "She didn't swing as hard from that point on.
Further questions were raised about Wie's wrist injury when, in April 2008, she announced that she actually had three broken bones in her wrist, contradicting her agent's March 2007 announcement that the wrist was not broken.
Withdrawal from pro-am event at 2009 KLPGA tournament
Wie refused to play the pro-am event at the Lotte Sky Hill Jeju Country Club a day before the first round of the KLPGA Lot