RONEN ZILBERMAN / ASSOCIATED PRESS|
Michelle Wie would rather follow the path of her hero, Tiger Woods, and play golf for Stanford before turning pro. "At this point money is not important," said her father, B.J. Wie.
How high can
Try $50 million!
A marketer says the money's there, but
the 13-year-old Punahou student wants
to retain her status as an amateur
Don't expect to see Michelle Wie behind the wheel of a custom-made Hummer (and not just because she can't get a driver's license until 2005), or signing lucrative endorsement contracts anytime soon.
The 13-year-old Punahou student has been getting lots of offers since she exploded onto the national golf scene two months ago by placing ninth in the Kraft Nabisco Championship LPGA Tour event.
Wie could make $50 million in five years from endorsement deals, according to Jane Blalock, a former LPGA star who runs a golf marketing company.
But Wie's father, B.J., says Michelle won't be immediately following in the glittery footsteps of other teen sports phenoms like basketball star LeBron James, 18, and soccer prodigy Freddy Adu, 13 -- nor the waddles of "Lil" Mark Wheeler Jr., a 3-year-old recently signed by Reebok after his mother's marketing of Lil Mark's basketball potential.
June 9: Open Sectional Qualifier, C.C. at Heathrow, Fla.
June 17-22: U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship, Ocean Hammock Golf Club, Palm Coast, Fla.
June 27-29: ShopRite LPGA Classic (LPGA Tour), Seaview Country Club, Galloway Township, N.J.
Aug. 14-17: Jamie Farr Kroger Classic (LPGA Tour), Highland Meadows Golf Club, Sylvania, Ohio.
Aug. 18-24: Bay Mills Open Players' Championship (Canadian Professional Golf Tour), Wild Bluff Golf Course, Brimley, Mich.
Sept. 18-21: Albertsons Boise Open (Nationwide Tour), Hillcrest Country Club, Boise, Idaho.
Sept. 26-28: Safeway Classic (LPGA Tour), at Columbia Edgewater Country Club, Portland, Ore.
Oct. 16-19: Sports Today CJ Nine Bridges Classic (LPGA Tour), The Club at Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, Korea.
James' mother bought LeBron a $50,000 Hummer several months ago, and the likely first pick of next month's NBA Draft signed a $90 million endorsement deal with Nike last week.
Adu, who is already on the U.S. under-17 national team and is expected to play in the Olympics next year, signed a contract with Nike this week worth $1 million.
And Reebok, after losing out on James, inked Lil Mark -- who has made 18 consecutive shots at an 8-foot rim -- to a promotional contract. He's the focal point of an ad campaign designed to find other tiny "stars" -- and sell toddler-sized shoes. Lil Mark's undisclosed financial compensation will go into a trust fund, and his amateur eligibility could be threatened.
"With the growth of interest in women's golf, and everyone looking for the next Nancy Lopez and the next Tiger Woods -- Michelle could be both of them wrapped into one," Blalock told ESPN.com. "She's wholesome; she's a phenomenal athlete. The LPGA has been dominated by international players, so the fact that she's from the U.S. will have tremendous appeal."
But B.J. says there are more important things to consider, and the money will be there later. "Michelle cannot receive any endorsements as an amateur. She would have to turn pro. Lots of offers have been coming in and out, but for now, we aren't doing anything with anyone, and we'd rather not go into detail about the offers," B.J. Wie said.
"Maybe soccer is different than golf. I was curious when I heard about that boy.
"In golf you can get no endorsements. You can't put it in a trust fund."
Michelle, an eighth-grader, would rather follow the path of her hero, Woods, and play golf for Stanford before turning pro. Accepting endorsements would also eliminate her from playing for Punahou's team next year, her first season of high school eligibility.
"At this point money is not important," the father said. "We want Michelle to have as normal a life as possible, and we don't want to jeopardize her amateur status also because she wants to play golf in college."
Wie is passing on next week's Manoa Cup, the state amateur match play championship she played in the past two years. But Wie has a heavy mainland tournament schedule in the coming months, including four more LPGA events and two appearances in men's professional tournaments.