8. Michelle Wie, Age: 21,
Achievements: Youngest female LPGA qualifier: Michelle Sung Wie was born on October 11, 1989. She is an American professional golfer who plays on the LPGA Tour. At age 10, she became the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship. Wie also became the youngest winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and the youngest to qualify for a LPGA Tour event. She turned professional shortly before her 16th birthday in 2005, accompanied by an enormous amount of publicity and endorsements
Wie was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the only child of immigrant parents from South Korea who came to the United States in the 1980s. Her father, Byung-wook Wie, is a former professor of transportation management at the University of Hawaii. Her mother, Bo, was South Korea’s women’s amateur golf champion in 1985 and competed in a Miss Korea pageant. Her paternal grandfather, Dr. Sang Kyu Wie, a resident of Jangheung, Jeollanam-do, was an emeritus professor at Seoul National University. When she was born, Wie was a dual citizen of both the Republic of Korea and the United States by default. Wie only has United States citizenship today.
Wie graduated from Punahou School in Honolulu in June 2007. On December 19, 2006, she announced that she would be attending Stanford University, where there are family ties. Her paternal grandfather was a visiting professor, and an aunt and uncle are both graduates. She enrolled in September 2007 as a freshman, but as a professional golfer, Wie was not eligible under NCAA rules to play for Stanford’s golf team. During her first three years at Stanford, she attended only during the fall and winter quarters, running from late September through mid March each year. She took leaves of absence during the rest of the year to play professional golf.
Wie completed her studies at Stanford in March 2012 with a major in communications. She participated in the university’s graduation ceremony in June 2012.
Wie began playing golf at the age of four. In 2000, at the age of ten, she became the youngest player ever to qualify for the Women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. Eight years later, Wie’s mark was surpassed by fellow Hawaiian Allisen Corpuz, who qualified when she was five months younger than Wie had been when she set the record.In 2001, at the age of 11, she won both the Hawaii State Women’s Stroke Play Championship and the Jennie K. Wilson Women’s Invitational, the oldest and most prestigious women’s amateur tournament in Hawaii. She also advanced into match play at the Women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
In 2002, she won the Hawaii State Open Women’s Division by thirteen shots. She also became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event, the Takefuji Classic held in Wie’s home state of Hawaii. While she went on to miss the cut, her record stood for five more years until it was broken in 2007 by 11-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn.
At the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wie became the youngest player to make an LPGA cut. She carded a 66 in the third round, tying the amateur record for a women’s major championship and qualifying her to play in the final group of the championship. In June 2003, Wie won the Women’s Amateur Public Links tournament, becoming the youngest person ever, male or female, to win a USGA adult event. Later that summer, she made the cut at the US Women’s Open when she was still just 13, the youngest player ever to do so.
Wie was given a sponsor’s exemption to the 2004 Sony Open in Hawaii, becoming the fourth, and youngest, female to play a PGA Tour event. Her second round score of 68 was the lowest ever by a woman in a PGA Tour event, though she went on to miss the cut in the tournament.She again played in the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship, finishing fourth. As part of the victorious U.S. team, she became the youngest woman ever to play in the Curtis Cup tournament. Wie started her 2005 season by accepting another sponsor’s invitation to play on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where she again missed the cut. She played five more LPGA Tour events that year as well as a PGA Tour event, the John Deere Classic. It was her third outing at a PGA Tour event; she missed the cut by two strokes.She entered qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Public Links and became the first female golfer to qualify for a USGA national men’s tournament, tying for first place in a 36-hole qualifier for the U.S. Amateur Public Links. Wie made the top 64 in the stroke play rounds to qualify for match play. She lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Clay Ogden.
On October 5, 2005, a week before her 16th birthday, Wie announced that she was turning professional. She signed sponsorship contracts with Nike and Sony reportedly worth more than $10 million per year.
Having turned professional, Wie was not a member of any professional tour. LPGA Tour membership age requirements require a golfer to be 18, although some players such as Morgan Pressel and Aree Song have successfully petitioned for an exemption to join at age 17. Wie chose not to request an exemption and was thus only allowed to participate in a limited number of LPGA Tour events when given a sponsor’s exemption from 2005 until 2008. She also chose not to participate in the Tour’s Qualifying Tournaments (or “Q-School”) until December 2008, when she finished 7th to gain LPGA membership for the 2009 season.
Wie played her first professional event in the 2005 LPGA Samsung World Championship, where she was disqualified from a fourth-place finish for signing an incorrect scorecard. A journalist (Michael Bamberger) reported she had illegally dropped the ball closer to the hole than its original lie the day after she completed her third round. At her other professional event in 2005, the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour, Wie shot four over par to miss the cut.
2006 started with the PGA Tour Sony Open at her home course, the Waialae Country Club, Hawaii where she again missed the cut, this time by four strokes. In the initial Rolex World Golf Rankings in February, 2006, Wie was placed third, behind Annika Sörenstam and Paula Creamer. She rose to second place in July, but her limited schedule meant she failed to play the minimum of 15 worldwide professional women’s tournaments over a twenty-four-month period and she was dropped from the rankings entirely. In August 2006, the calculation of the rankings was revised such that any player who had accumulated points in fewer than 35 tournaments had her ranking calculated as if she had played in 35. After the change, Wie’s ranking dropped to 7th.
In her first two tournaments on the LPGA Tour in early 2006, Wie gained a third place finish in the Fields Open in Hawaii, finishing one stroke off the lead, and finished in a tie for third in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, finishing one stroke behind, again. May 2006 saw her play the Asian Tour SK Telecom Open, becoming the second woman (after Se Ri Pak) to make the cut at a men’s tournament in South Korea. Wie reportedly received US$700,000 in appearance fees at an event that offered only US$600,000 in total prize money. In all, she reportedly netted US$5 million in appearance and endorsement money for the two-week trip.
May 2006 also saw her become the first female medalist in a local qualifier for the Men’s U.S. Open. Wie did not compete in the “easier” Hawaii final stage qualifier, as she would have been unable to play at the LPGA Championship the following week. She played at Summit, NJ, vying for one of 16 available spots, but finished 59th and did not advance. At the LPGA Championship Wie finished two strokes off the lead, tied for fifth, and followed this up with a tie for third at the US Women’s Open. In July, she played in the LPGA HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship, where she lost in the quarterfinals, 4 and 3, to the eventual champion, Brittany Lincicome.
In July, Wie played in the PGA John Deere Classic. After a 6-over-par first round, she reached 8 over par and 10 shots above the projected cut line before withdrawing from the tournament after the 9th hole, citing heat exhaustion. Two weeks later, Wie returned to the LPGA Tour, finishing in a tie for second at the Evian Masters, one stroke off the lead. She tied for 26th at the Women’s British Open, where she drew controversy for hitting a piece of moss on her backswing while she was in a bunker. This resulted in a two-stroke penalty. In a post-round interview, Wie said, “I guess I knew the rule wrong, from what I always knew… [I]f you swing through it, everything would be OK.”
In September, she competed in the Omega European Masters on the men’s European Tour, where she finished last among the 156 competitors, 15 strokes over par. Wie missed the cut by 14 strokes, although tournament organizers reported that many of the 9,500 spectators on the first day came to see Wie. A week later, in Wie’s third 2006 appearance on the PGA Tour, at the 84 Lumber Classic, she finished 14 over par after two rounds, 23 strokes behind the leader. At the LPGA Tour Samsung World Championship, Wie finished in 17th place in the 20-player field, 21 strokes behind the leader. Her last event of 2006 saw Wie compete in the Casio World Open on the men’s Japan Golf Tour where she finished last, 27 shots behind the leader. With the conclusion of the Casio tournament, Wie had played 14 consecutive rounds of tournament golf without breaking par—eight on the LPGA Tour, two on the European Tour, two on the PGA Tour, and two on the Japan Golf Tour. By the end of 2006, her first full year as a professional, Wie had missed the cut in 11 out of 12 tries against men and remained win less in all 33 professional women’s tournaments she had entered, the last 9 as a professional.
In January Wie accepted her fourth consecutive sponsor’s exemption to the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii, where she missed the cut by 14 strokes, finishing third from last in the 144-player field, 25 strokes behind the second-round leader. Her next competition, after a four-month absence and reported injuries to both wrists, was at the LPGA’s Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika, where she was 14 over par through 16 holes in the first round before withdrawing after a conversation with her agent, citing an aggravated wrist injury.
The withdrawal was controversial owing to the LPGA Rule of 88, which states that a non-LPGA member shooting a score of 88 or more is forced to withdraw and banned from LPGA co-sponsored events for the rest of the year. Wie claimed that the injury and not the rule of 88 was the cause of the withdrawal, but some observers, including one of her playing partners, Alena Sharp, questioned this claim.There was further controversy when both Sharp and Wie’s other playing partner, Janice Moodie, questioned the involvement of Wie’s father, B.J. They said he appeared to give Wie advice during the course of play, which could have resulted in a two-stroke penalty, but as Wie withdrew, this became a moot point.
Wie was seen two days later practicing at the site of the LPGA Championship in Bulle Rock, Maryland, which drew criticism from Ginn Tribute host Annika Sörenstam, who said, “I just feel there’s a little bit of lack of respect and class just to kind of leave a tournament like that and come out and practice here.” At the LPGA championship Wie was 3 over par and bang on the cutline after two days to extend her run of cuts made at LPGA majors to 13, but she shot rounds of 83 and 79 on the weekend to finish last of those who made the cut, 35 strokes behind the eventual winner. Wie entered the US Women’s Open in June but withdrew midway through the second round after hitting her second shot out of the rough on the 10th hole, citing a wrist injury. Her tournament score through 27 holes was 17 over par, 22 strokes behind the second-round leader.
At the Evian Masters in July, Wie broke her year-long streak of 24 consecutive rounds at or over par by shooting a second-round one-under-par 71, but shooting a 12-over-par 84 in the third round led to her finishing 20 strokes behind winner Natalie Gulbis,third from last of those making the cut. One week later at the Women’s British Open, Wie shot rounds of 73 and 80, missing the cut by two strokes, her first missed cut in an LPGA Tour event since 2003, and her first missed cut in a major.
Wie next played in August at the Canadian Women’s Open, where she was invited as a sponsor’s exemption. She shot rounds of 75 and 74 on the par 71 course, missing the cut by four strokes. The following week, with another sponsor’s exemption, Wie played in the Safeway Classic at Portland, Oregon. After shooting rounds of 79 and 75, she missed the cut by six strokes and finished 21 strokes behind the second-round leader. Three weeks after beginning her freshman year at Stanford University, Wie played as a sponsor exemption in the limited field Samsung World Championship, finishing 19th out of the 20-player field, 36 strokes behind the winner.
In December 2007, Wie was ranked #4 in the Forbes Top 20 Earners Under 25 with an annual earnings of $19 million .
The year 2008 was the first time since 2004 that Wie was not granted one of four available sponsor exemptions to play the PGA Tour Sony Open. She started the year on a sponsor’s exemption at the LPGA Fields Open, where she shot 69, 73, and 78 to finish tied for 72nd, last among players making the cut.Two LPGA sponsor exemptions were offered and accepted to the Safeway International and Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill tournaments, but Wie was unable to play at the Safeway as she announced she had injured her wrist practicing. She did play the Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill, shooting rounds of 75 and 71, missing the cut by four strokes. Wie’s next competitive appearance was her first on the Ladies European Tour playing on a sponsor invitation in the Ladies German Open, where she finished in sixth place, seven strokes behind the winner, fellow eighteen-year-old Amy Yang.
In June Wie played in Maryland at a sectional qualifier for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. She finished in second place, earning one of the 35 qualification spots available.She shot an eight-over-par 81 in the first round of 2008 U.S. Women’s Open and ended up with a 10-over total of 156, missing the cut. July saw Wie playing on a sponsor exemption at the LPGA State Farm Classic. She was in the middle of her third round when it was realized she had failed to sign her second round scorecard. Event organizers waited until the conclusion of that round to notify her that she was disqualified in order to give her an opportunity to explain what had happened. She was one stroke off the lead at the time. Two days later Wie announced that she had accepted an invitation to play her eighth PGA Tour event in the alternate field Legends Reno-Tahoe Open. She shot rounds of 73 and 80, missing the cut by nine strokes.
Wie had expressed her desire to attempt to earn membership on the LPGA Tour for the 2009 season by earning the equivalent of 80th place on the 2008 money list through her earnings at the events she played in through sponsor exemptions. When she failed to reach this goal, she entered an LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament. At the tournament, held from September 16 through 19 at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, she finished tied for 4th place. This was sufficient to advance her to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament held in Daytona Beach, Florida in December, 2008. During the Final Qualifying Tournament, Wie finished in a tie for 7th place to make her eligible to play full time on the LPGA Tour in 2009.
After passing LPGA Qualifying School in December 2008, Wie declared that she still planned to play in tournaments against men. However for the second consecutive year, she did not receive a sponsor exemption to play in the Sony Open in Hawaii where she had played four years in a row from 2004 through 2007. Her first tournament as an LPGA member was the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay where she shot 66, 70 to move into a tie with Angela Stanford going into the final round of the tournament. Wie held a three-stroke lead with eight holes remaining, but ended up losing to Stanford by three strokes.
It was reported in early March, 2009, that Wie had left the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent agency that had represented her since she turned pro in 2005, and would be signing with sports agency IMG.
In Wie’s next two tournaments, the J Golf Phoenix LPGA International and the Kraft Nabisco Championship, she struggled to make the cut, finishing on the cut line after the second round both times. She finished tied for 57th and 67th respectively in the two events. In the Kraft Nabisco, a major on the LPGA Tour, she shot a score of 81 in both the second and third rounds. In mid-April, Wie traveled to Korea to play in a LPGA of Korea event, the Lotte Mart Open, for the first time. She finished tied for 36, earning $1,536. She spent the next two months playing in every available LPGA tournament, with results ranging from a tie for 3rd at the Sybase Classic to a tie for 54th at the State Farm Classic, the same event at which she was disqualified in 2008 for failing to sign her scorecard. At the second major of the year, the LPGA Championship, she finished tied for 23rd, her best finish in a major since 2006. During this tournament she also scored her first recorded hole-in-one as a professional.
The day after the end of the LPGA Championship, Wie participated in a sectional qualifying tournament for the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open to be held during the first week in July. She joined 110 players at the Rockville, Maryland site, one of several sites around the country set up for qualifying purposes on that day. Wie missed qualifying after shooting rounds of 70 and 74.
In August, at Rich Harvest Farms golf course in Sugar Grove, Illinois, Wie was a captain’s pick for the United States team in Solheim Cup competition. She finished the tournament with a 3-0-1 performance in four matches.
On November 15, 2009, Wie won her first professional individual tournament, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico, a limited field event on the LPGA Tour, posting a score of thirteen under par 275 for a two-stroke margin over fellow American Paula Creamer, and beating Jiyai Shin, Christie Kerr and Morgan Pressel by two strokes. It was Wie’s 81st professional tournament and her 66th LPGA Tour event.She then finished second in the Ladies European Tour season-ending Dubai Ladies Masters tournament on December 9–12, 2009, shooting a 15-under-par 273, which put her three shots behind winner In-Kyung Kim.
On August 29, 2010, she posted a three-shot win over a full field at the CN Canadian Women’s Open, held at St. Charles Country Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for her second career professional victory. In her next LPGA event two weeks later, she finished second in the 54-hole P&G NW Arkansas Championship shooting 201 (-12) and losing to Yani Tseng by one stroke after giving up an overnight three-stroke lead.
Achievements and Awards:
- -2002 Hawaii State Open, Women’s Division (67-71-70=208 (–8), 13 strokes over Cindy Rarick)
- -2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links (Stroke play: 73-71=144 (E); 18-hole matches: 2&1, 2&1, 5&4, 6&5, 5&4; 36-hole final: 1 up over Virada Nirapathpongporn)
- -Wie won several other Hawaiian local and junior events during the years 2000 through 2002.
- -Wie played her first professional event while still an amateur in February 2002. Prior to her first win in a professional tournament, on November 15, 2009, she played in a total of -80 professional events as either an amateur or a professional:
- -66 against women: 64 on the LPGA Tour, 1 on the Ladies European Tour, and 1 on the LPGA of Korea Tour.
- -14 against men: 8 on the PGA Tour, 2 on the Japan Golf Tour, 1 on the European Tour, 1 on the Asian Tour, 1 on the Nationwide Tour, and 1 on the Canadian Tour.
- -Curtis Cup (representing the United States): 2004 (winners)
- -Solheim Cup (representing the United States): 2009 (winners), 2011
- -The youngest winner (male or female) of an adult USGA-sanctioned tournament – Age 13 (2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links)
- -The youngest player to make a cut in an LPGA tournament and major – Age 13 (2003 Nabisco Championship)
- -The youngest player to play in a PGA Tour event – Age 14 (2004 Sony Open)
- -The lowest round by a female in a PGA Tour event – 68 (2004 and 2006 Sony Open)
- -The youngest player to play in Curtis Cup history – Age 14 (2004)
- -The first female to qualify for a USGA championship that is generally played by males – Age 15 (2005 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship Pittsburgh sectional)
- -The first female to make a cut on the Asian Tour – Age 16 (2006 SK Telecom Open)
- -The first female medalist in a U.S. Open qualifying tournament – Age 16 (2006 U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Turtle Bay Hawaii)