Know Your Asians: Michelle Wie (Muh-Shell Wee)
By Stephanie Wei under General

There’s an influx of Asians on the LPGA. And they’re really good. In fact, they win a lot. But many fans find it difficult to keep track of who is who because, you know, all Asians look alike and their names sound the same. So, let’s get to know them better.

  • Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Michelle is 20 years old.
  • Her given name is Sung-Mi, which means “Holy Beauty” in Korean.
  • She started playing golf when she was 4. At age 5 she hit it 100
    yards. At 13, she drove it 300 yards.
  • When she was 10, she professed, “My favorite golfer is Tiger Woods. I think I can beat him in the near future. Like when I’m 15.”
  • At 16, she was named one of Time magazine’s “The Time 100, The People Who Shape Our World.”
  • She speaks “Konglish.” That’s what she calls the mix of Korean and English she learned from her parents.
  • She got her nickname “The Big Wiesy” when she played with Tom Lehman at the 2002 Pro-Junior the week of the PGA Tour’s Sony Open — her swing reminded him of Ernie Els’, aka “The Big Easy.”
  • “Youngest player” achievements include: Won 2003 US Women’s Public Links Championship; made the cut at an LPGA major championship (13); played in a PGA Tour event (14); played in Curtis Cup (14)
  • In 2004 she was given a sponsor’s exemption to play at the Sony Open and despite missing the cut by one measly stroke, her second-round score of 68 was the lowest ever by a woman in a PGA Tour event.
  • She turned professional in 2005 after her 16th birthday and immediately signed contracts with Nike and Sony that were reportedly worth more than $10 million.
  • That same year she played a round with President Bill Clinton, who said this: “She’s a brilliant athlete, and a beautiful young woman. She’s a nice person. She’s a great golfer, and she puts her talents to good use, something not always done by teenagers with her gifts. Plus, pretty soon she could be winning tournaments against men.”
  • “88 Gate”: Citing a wrist injury, she withdrew from the ‘07 Ginn Tribute, where she was 14-over through 16 holes and sparked controversy because of the “Rule of 88” that states a nonmember who shoots 88 is banned from playing in LPGA events for the remainder of the calendar season.
  • After injuring her wrist in early 2007, she continued to compete (rather poorly) despite the pain and didn’t discover until months later that she had three broken bones in her hand.
  • Her parents have been hugely criticized for the mismanagement of their daughter and inappropriate behavior on the golf course.
  • She’s a junior communications major at Stanford University. GPA? 3.4.
  • She enjoys painting, drawing, etc., and DIY fashion and showcases her creative work on her blog, Black Flamingo.

Asian-ness Scale (1-10, 1: Michelle Wie, totally Americanized; 5: Se Ri Pak, somewhat assimilated; 10: Eun-Hee Ji, 한국말): Michelle = 1

[**To learn more about Michelle, check out Eric Adelson’s book THE SURE THING: The Making and Unmaking of Golf Phenom Michelle Wie — actually, the Armchair Golfer is having a free drawing for an autographed copy. Go HERE for a chance to win.]