We sportswriters are paid to craft words in a professional and engaging manner so as to analyze and illuminate the happenings in our beloved little sports world, to entertain and inform, if you will, the games in which we lose ourselves.
And then there are times sportswriters should just shut up and let the story do the talking.
Like this Michelle Wie thing.
In crafting thoughts to properly place in perspective her first-ever LPGA Tour win, a harrowing and brave piece of golf theatre at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico on Sunday, riding a final-round 69 and final-hole birdie to a two-stroke victory over Paula Creamer, sometimes it’s better to get out of the way.
Forthwith, I present to you Michelle Wie’s entries on Twitter after a win that both ended and began an odyssey for a young woman who just turned 20 last month, a journey that has encompassed every step requisite in drama – The Arrival, The Fame, The Expectations, The Backlash, The Fall, The Disappearance and, now, The Resurrection.
Tweeted Michelle after her win (with the punctuation all hers):
“wowwwww… never thought this would feel THIS great!!!!
Not content that she’d properly transmitted her feelings, Michelle took a few moments, and tweeted again:
Getting the picture? Because Michelle apparently wasn’t quite sure she was clear enough, and moments later tweeted again:
“wow this is just sooo delicious.m”
Let’s not forget. She was a teenager just last month, so excessive giddiness comes honestly. To that end, Michelle waited a few more moments and tweeted once more:
“such a great weekend first stanford football dominated and now this?! Wooowwwwwwwww i love life”
And that, dear readers, is what the weight of the world feels like when it is removed from one’s shoulders and tossed into the rubbish.
The lesson here is as ancient as sport itself, and the same lifelong tutorial put on display by golf’s other big winner on Sunday, Tiger Woods, who made millions of Australians happy by delivering a ‘W’ on his once-a-decade trip Down Under:
There are no shortcuts to all this. As tempting as it is to think the sweetest rewards are lucrative Nike contracts and worldwide media coverage and all the Omega watches you can fit on your wrist, the opposite is true. The best stuff comes from within, and plying one’s craft with dedication and maturity and discipline. Tiger has been trying to lead by example all his life in his deeds, the message being: if you follow the path of earning, not expecting; of following paths of more resistance than paths of lesser resistance, you will find yourself a more fulfilled soul, and more able to be the best you can be.
Next thing you know, you’re tweeting “wooooOoooooooooohooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo” to the world.
All this is a long way of saying that Michelle Wie is finally doing it the right way. Her 13-year-old declarations of wanting to be the first woman to play in – and win! – the Masters, and to be the first woman to play regularly on the PGA Tour, were admirable motivational slogans for young girls all over the world, a giant generational step from the “You’ve come a long way, baby” magazine ads of the 1970s. Wie was saying, in effect, that women hadn’t just come a long way, women were going to keep going, and not stop anytime soon.
Problem was, instead of using those bold declarations as a backdrop to a golf career that would conquer small goals before large, Wie seemed to almost believe the hype, and tried to get ahead of herself. She eschewed seeking regular membership on the LPGA Tour, seemingly dismissing it as a second-rate shop, and almost predictably, bad things happened. She was getting ahead of herself, way ahead, and not only did she fail to make any cuts on the PGA Tour, her body began to betray her (wrist injuries would plague her late teens). Worst of all, her attempt to muscle up with the men meant she would alter her most fundamental gift of them all, her otherworldly golf swing.
It all crashed together like a gruesome pileup on a highway: her heat exhaustion collapse at the John Deere, her rules violation at Bighorn, her mysterious late-round withdrawal at Annika’s tournament en route to an 88, her practice round at the LPGA Championship site days later that drew sharp criticism from Annika … even die-hard ‘Wie Believers’ (such as yours truly) began to feel the sting of having invested sports fandom in someone who would not only flame out before age 20, but waste the whole package – a strikingly attractive physical presence to go with a strikingly attractive golf swing – along with it.
And then, change.
Like almost all change, it came two ways: gradually, and then suddenly.
In late 2008, when Wie, now a Stanford student who seemed to be finding her true bliss on the same campus where Tiger Woods enjoyed being surrounded by brilliance, announced she would enter LPGA Qualifying School, the message was stark. She was willing to put in the work, not to mention risk the embarrassment of failure, to take her next step.
Not many Augusta National green jacket-dreamers have announced they were going to LPGA Q-School. This one did.
In retrospect, it was probably the most important moment of her career to date. Not the “60 Minutes” interview. Not the Nike deal. Not the PGA Tour exemptions. It was finally something Tiger would be proud of: working for a goal.
Everything since then has been good: an earned LPGA Tour card, a near-win in her first start in Hawaii, eight top-10s in 18 starts, and then maybe Wie’s most important career development prior to the win in Mexico – her face-painted, flag-waving, undefeated effort as a captain’s pick in this summer’s Solheim Cup, a time when Wie stood tallest amid her peers and brought Team USA a win with a 3-0-1 record. In the process, she accomplished the most vital thing possible. She earned respect.
That she would win just two starts later almost seemed inevitable, because labor mixed with humility bears the sweetest of fruit.
Yes, she’s 71 LPGA Tour wins behind Annika. Yes, Paula Creamer did all the stuff Wie thought she’d do, like winning at age 18, becoming the youngest to $1 million in earnings. Yes, Lorena Ochoa is the No. 1 women’s player in the game.
But none of them is the best story in the women’s game, and the second-best story in all of golf, behind only Tiger. The dramatic arc of Michelle Wie has captivated us yet again, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
Or, as the lass herself tweets: “Wooowwwwwwwww i love life”.
This should be fun.