Get used to Michelle Wie competing against men
Michelle Wie was in contention for qualifying for the U.S. Open before making miscues near the end of her rounds.
ANY skeptics of Michelle Wie golfing alongside male professionals should have been silenced by her performance in attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open
. At age 16, Wie became the first woman to win a local qualifier. Qualifying in yesterday's 36-hole sectional would have been a sporting milestone of epic proportions, and she came oh-so-close to achieving it.
Wie competed at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., against 152 men, including 135 professionals, four dozen of them members of the PGA Tour, for 18 spots available for the Open. Three consecutive bogies in her home stretch tumbled her out of contention.
Tour pros had little to complain about Wie's method of trying to qualify for the Open. She competed against men at the local qualifier at the Turtle Bay Resort course last month and finished atop the field. Some golfers maintain that she should have to compete in Monday qualifying rounds in order to play in any PGA event.
Resentment against Wie will continue to exist on both the PGA and LPGA tours. The women are envious of Wie turning pro and receiving endorsements worth more than $10 million a year, even though she has yet to win an LPGA tournament. She has finished among the top 10 in nine major LPGA events and is the only woman ever to make the weekend cut in an international men's tour event -- in Korea last month.
The public response to Wie's participation at Cane Brook explains the endorsements. While the sectional qualifier for the Open normally receives little attention, drawing a few hundred onlookers, an estimated 3,500 people showed up yesterday -- others were turned away by officials -- and ESPN reported Wie's progress throughout the day.
Some men players don't like the very idea of a woman playing in their tournaments. "No women should be allowed to qualify in a men's event," Australian Stuart Appleby told The Columbus Dispatch.
Where Wie has played in PGA tournaments, including the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club, she has been granted sponsors' exemptions from having to qualify. That will continue, because her presence brings greater attention to the tournaments, including the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities area of Moline and Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa.
"Go to Quad Cities and see how many people are gathered around the first tee when she's there," said tour regular Paul Azinger. "I would never deny a sponsor that."
Men and women golfers should accept and relish the attention that Wie brings to their tours, creating greater purses to winners of the events.