first_img “I’m finally happy to say I’m a pro starting today,’ said Wie, who turns 16 in six days. “The first time I grabbed a golf club, I knew I’d do it for the rest of my life. Some 12 years later, I’m finally turning pro, and I’m so excited.’ Wie has signed endorsement deals with Nike and Sony said to be worth $10 million a year. Her first act as a professional was to give some of it back. HONOLULU — There was no Tigeresque “Hello, world’ moment. No, Michelle Wie strode into a crowded conference room with high heels and high hopes and said what everyone already knew. Wie made her announcement at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel, next to the 10th fairway at Waialae Country Club where, at age 14, she shot 68 in the Sony Open, the lowest score ever by a female competing on the men’s tour. Lest anyone think she was skipping class, Wie planned to join her junior class at the private Punahou School in time for “Japanese or drawing,’ depending when she got there. She was an hour late to a quick demonstration at Waialae, where she hit a half-dozen tee shots, borrowed a digital camera from her father and took her own photo of some 25 reporters and executives watching her every move. “It’s a strange feeling,’ her father, B.J. Wie said. “When I was bringing her downstairs, it felt like a wedding. Becoming a professional means she will have more responsibility. She has to be able to handle much higher expectations. She’ll have extra pressure.’ But he believes his daughter is up to the challenge, as always. Still six days away from being able to get her driver license, Wie will make her professional debut next week on the LPGA Tour at the Samsung World Championship, an 18-player field at Bighorn Golf Club in the California desert. She also will play in the Casio World Open in Japan the week of Thanksgiving, her sixth time competing against men. She has yet to make the cut against men, but has more than held her own on the LPGA Tour. Wie was runner-up at the LPGA Championship to Annika Sorenstam, and tied for third at the Women’s British Open. She has made the cut in her last 16 LPGA events dating to 2003, and would have earned about $640,870 on the LPGA had she not been an amateur. That would put her 13th on the money list in only seven starts. She is not expected to join the LPGA Tour until she turns 18, but can play as many as eight LPGA Tour events each of the next two years. Wie likely will play a couple of other times on the PGA Tour, and on men’s tours overseas. Her path is different from Tiger Woods, who dominated every level of amateur play when he turned pro at age 20 with his famous “Hello, World’ statement. Wie chose to play the best competition she could find, taking her to the LPGA Tour at age 12 when she qualified for the Takefuji Classic in Hawaii and missed the cut. “Michelle obviously has some talent,’ Woods said Tuesday. “When I was 16, I wasn’t even thinking about turning pro. I was just hoping to get into college somewhere. She has a talent, and has been good enough to make a giant step like that.’ Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman is among those who believe winning is a matter of time. Lehman first saw Wie when she was 12 and playing a junior pro-am at the Sony Open. He was the one who first called her the “Big Wiesy,’ saying her fluid swing reminded him of Ernie Els, the “Big Easy.’ “I’ve always felt like she’s Secretariat,’ Lehman said. “You can give her minor adjustments adjust the bit in her mouth but it’s like, ‘Let her go.’ She’s that good.’ 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 She pledged $500,000 to the U.S. Golf Hurricane Relief Fund, set up by the major golf organizations. Wie has been competing against the best players since she was in the seventh grade. The only difference now is that she’ll be competing with them on their level as a pro. Already she’s dealing with the expectations that come with celebrity. “I know I have to win. That’s my priority right now,’ she said, sitting in her hotel suite overlooking the blue surf. “Everyone expects me to do better and work harder, and I’m going to try my best.’ This wasn’t quite like Tiger Woods’ “Hello, world’ greeting in 1996, when he turned pro at age 20, having won six consecutive USGA amateur titles. But like Woods on the men’s tour, the 6-foot Wie gives women’s professional golf a prodigy of its own. last_img

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