Wie waiting on first win

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

She is, without question, the face of women's golf.

As goes Michelle Wie goes the future of the LPGA.

Her beauty, her power and her boldness catapulted her into a spotlight at age 13 that had the golf world comparing her to Tiger Woods.

The Nike Swoosh, and all the marketing that comes with it, didn't hurt.

However, somewhere along the way to becoming the only internationally known female golfer in today's game, she forgot something: How to win.

A U.S. Women's Amateur champ at age 13 who qualified for her first pro tour event that summer, Wie has yet to grip and grin with one of those oversized cheques on the 18th green, going 0-for-60 in LPGA starts before this weekend's event in Oregon.

In some people's eyes, she became yesterday's news.

However, on the eve of this week's US$2.75-million CN Canadian Women's Open, it may be a perfect time to remind all those heading to Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club there's one thing we, as casual women's golf fans, forget: She's only 19.

"I think they do forget that, but sometimes I think I do, as well," said Wie, in a phone interview wedged between an ESPN shoot and lunch.

"People write what they want to write, but I think it's the beginning of my career. If one door closes, it's my duty to try opening another one."

If there's one thing Wie has attracted more than sponsors, it's criticism, due largely to her insatiable desire to overachieve. Given her looks, fan-base and ability to drive the ball more than 300 yards (her average is 267 yards), several PGA Tour sponsors took her up on her stated goal of playing amongst the world's best and invited her to test her mettle with the big boys.

Literally.

Some saw it as a brilliant opportunity to give women's golf its due, while most -- largely those on the LPGA Tour -- suggested she should concentrate on conquering a women's field first. Her quest to be the first female to make a PGA Tour cut has fallen short all eight attempts, as have expectations everywhere else she now plays.

However, not only did the second-most famous graduate of Punahou School in Honolulu (Barack Obama had earlier studied there) see her experiences with the men as good ones, she fully expects to take several other stabs at the men's circuit.

"I definitely think it's in the future -- it really excites me, and it's something I've always wanted to do," said Wie, the 17-ranked player in a field featuring all 50 of the world's top players this week at Priddis Greens.

"I'm not one to just give up on it."

When asked why it was so important for her to pursue success amongst men, she giggled like a schoolgirl.

"It's just how I think as a person," said the 'Big Wiesy,' whose hero has long been Ernie Els. "Even when I was younger, I played on the boys' baseball team. I don't think it's weird or as different as every-one thinks it is. I love playing on the women's tour, and I really just want to try experience playing in the men's tour, as well. Why not? No one can stop me from what I want to do."

As to the inevitable comparisons to Tiger, who attended Stanford -- where she'll return to next month -- her goal in life is much different than that of the man whose focus has been solely on breaking Jack Nicklaus' majors record.

"My overall goal is to be happy," said Wie, confirming indeed she is these days.

"I'm flattered when I hear people say I'm the face or the future of the LPGA, but I think I have a lot to do before I get there. I have to become a lot better player and keep working on my game and excite people when they watch golf."

She did just that last week when she was the backbone of the Solheim Cup-winning American side, going 3-0-1 and prompting LPGA star Juli Inkster to predict Wie would win a tourney by year's end.

In her first full season on the LPGA Tour (she relied on sponsor's exemptions for years), she's made all 13 cuts, sits 12th in scoring and doesn't seem to be bothered by wrist ailments that earlier sidelined her career.

"I don't really know why I haven't won yet," said Wie, who has six top-five finishes in majors and has finished top three a trio of times this year.

"There's a fine line between coming in second and first, whether it be bad luck or me not playing up to certain situations. I think it will happen.

"I've just got to keep playing better and getting better because these girls out here aren't staying the same --they're getting better as well."

So is Wie's story.

And, thus, the potential for women's golf.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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