Wie donates $25,000 to paralyzed Illinois teen athlete
The pro golfer offers words of encouragement and tells Travis Hearn that she'll pray for him
It takes something big to overshadow Michelle Wie, especially in the Quad Cities. The golf phenom from Honolulu has played in the John Deere Classic the past two years, and the collection of four towns along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois has basically adopted her.
But the area's biggest sports-related news in 2006 was Rock Island (Ill.) football player Travis Hearn suffering an injury during a game that made him a quadriplegic.
Wie learned of Hearn's plight last week through Quad City Times reporter Craig DeVrieze, when DeVrieze was working on a piece recapping the year's top stories.
When Wie found out Hearn's family doesn't have adequate insurance, she decided to make a donation. Her father, B.J. Wie, made some inquiries and a donation of $25,000 was decided upon.
"Michelle got to speak to Travis (yesterday) and it was very emotional," B.J. Wie said. "They're the same age (17) and they're both athletes."
Michelle Wie called Hearn, who is being treated at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
"She encouraged me," Hearn is quoted as saying in a Quad-City Times story, which also quoted Wie: "I told Travis not to give up and he said, 'Never. Never. Never.' I was glad to hear that. I told him I would pray for him."
Wie donated relief funds to Gulf Coast hurricane victims when she turned pro in 2005, and recently announced she would provide computers and other supplies to needy school children on Oahu's Leeward Coast.
B.J. said Michelle has an affinity for the communities of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island, Ill., and the surrounding area.
"Michelle has received unconditional support from the people of Quad Cities for two years, especially last year. Even though she didn't play that well in the first round this year, more people came on Friday, and she felt very grateful. She felt very bad that she couldn't finish the round (on Friday)," the father said. "The people are like people in Hawaii. I don't know what they call it in the Midwest, but it is just like the aloha spirit."
Wie, suffering heat exhaustion, withdrew midway through the second round of the JDC in July. She had shot a 6-over 77 in the first round.
She faltered late in the second round and missed the cut by two strokes in 2005, nearly becoming the first female to make a PGA Tour cut in 60 years.
Tournament director Clair Peterson said Wie is welcome back in 2007.
"We don't know yet," B.J. Wie said. "We're still working on her schedule."
Wie is set for the Sony Open, Jan. 11-14. She recently accepted a sponsor's exemption and will play in the PGA event at Waialae Country Club for the fourth time.