In Michelle Wie's Defense

J. Michael MorrisSenior Analyst IJuly 31, 2008

Michelle Wie has become a pretty easy target lately.

I don't know how many articles I have read asking the question, "what is she thinking!". I have even written articles with the same exasperated wonder of her entire situation.

So, as any good lawyer would be required to do, this is my attempt to explain the reason, if any can be found, behind Michelle Wie's career decisions.

My first thought is that Michelle, with all her talent and fame, is really just a dumb kid. When I say dumb, I mean not wise and experienced in the ways of the world. I was a "dumb kid" and you were too.

It is really easy from an outsider's perspective to identify her mistakes and even try to foresee potential future pitfalls, but I doubt any high school kid in the country has any of these original thoughts. Would you handle yourself differently, given the same circumstances?

What I did when I was that age was trust my parents' judgement. So if there is career mis-management up to this point, it has been her father's poor judgement. Any 18 year old who ditches their parents in favor of an agent has profound problems. It was even difficult for Tiger Woods to separate his father from the day to day management of his career. I am not convinced there have been mistakes made by her father.

Fans often marvel at the popularity of someone who has accomplished nothing. I still can't believe Ryan Seacrest's career, or Paris Hilton's.

A person has a career for money, right? I am not idealistic enough to believe that athletes just want to play, compete, win, and not earn money. I work to live, not the other way around. Why should Michelle, or her father for that matter, be any different?

From a standpoint of money, the Wie Corporation is probably more successful than 99% of LPGA Tour players and 90% of PGA Tour players. Endorsements are fickle things, as any professional athlete will agree, a player must get them while he/she can.

Hey, anybody know who's winning the Women's British Open? Day one is finished and I don't care.

I also don't care about the WNBA games that were played today. Am I sexist? Maybe. I've accused myself of worse social indiscretions.

I do know that Retief Goosen is leading the WGC and Jeff Overton shot a seven under par round of 65 in the first round of the Reno/Tahoe Open. I also know that Michelle Wie shot a non-embarrassing 73 and beat David Duval and more than 50 other PGA Tour players.

PGA Tour golf is a game of consistency, though. Many golfers could play that golf course at even par just once. There are literally thousands of pretty good players on mini-tours worldwide that have spent their entire careers trying to get their shot in a PGA Tour event. All of them have shot under-par rounds at comparable golf courses in tournament conditions. This, basically is the men's rub with Michelle, she hasn't earned her spot.

Sponsors' exemptions are a very common practice in competitive golf. Really, it is the most important job a professional golfer's agent has. So, in this case Michelle's father is simply a better agent. Better at promoting his product, so to speak.

The best quality products are usually not the most popular. Look at the rest of the LPGA Tour. Michelle hasn't won an event there, but most people couldn't name five other players that have.

Bigger tournaments have bigger purses and more exposure. More exposure means better endorsement money. Bigger purses pay even the lowest person that makes the cut, more money.

In golf, you are paid according to your performance, so it isn't like she was given a large multi-year contract to be a franchise player because she draws a crowd. The other players in the event should rejoice that there is one less person in the field with a chance to win.

Any professional golfer, anywhere, would accept a spot in a bigger event than they have "earned" the right to be at. A little hypocritical for anyone to criticize that.

I know that kids of formerly great players are the recipients of these all the time. Ever heard of Gary Nicklaus or Andy Miller? They haven't won anything either, but they often get invites to play in tournaments for the novelty of it. Just like Michelle Wie, but not as cute.

The women's tour is upset that she doesn't help them promote their tour better. Believe me, every player out there wants a female Tiger Woods to come along and bring the attention and endorsements to their tour, too. Michelle is far from that person, we now realize. But early on, she was the LPGA's hope for increased tournament purses, and embraced by everyone.

If the LPGA can't get her the exposure her endorsers require, I can't blame her for going somewhere else.

The bottom line is, sports have become less about competition in favor of being an individual athlete's marketing vehicle for their personal career. Sometimes even a stepping stone to Hollywood. Fans have made it that way, so they shouldn't complain when someone takes advantage of this system.