Michelle Wie makes millions of dollars a year. How? Well, currently she's stacking that green by shooting eight over par through nine holes at the Sony Open. Pretty sweet work, if you can get it. Since turning 'pro' at age sixteen, Michelle has won a grand total of zero events. That's thirty-three professional women's tournaments without a win, and one made cut out of twelve in men's tournaments.
So why is she a professional? Well, I suppose the reasoning has to do with the fact that she generates cash, and a lot of it. There aren't many asians above six feet who can hit a ball 280 yards. So, Nike, Omega, and Sony assume that'll give them a great opportunity to tap into her market. You know, the market of six foot asians with faces like a shovel. But, this also seems to be based on the Kwame Brown Theory of professionalism. That is, if someone has qualities that indicate they could become good, get in on the ground level. I don't agree.
The teenage years are key for the development of a human being: for an athlete especially. Not only are they growing into their bodies, but also their minds. They're figuring out how to be confident, how to deal with pressure, and what they want out of life. Tiger Woods, Michelle's idol, understood this, and didn't go pro until age 20. Would you have been able to handle the problems of being a paid professional at age 18? I know I wouldn't have. Obviously, the risk for someone to have their growth stunted is high. I mean, really, look at Kwame. He's just now reaching the level of "pretty OK", and he'll be 25 in two months. Imagine what it could have been like if they'd paced his development more carefully.
Obviously, this issue is not simple. There are success stories when it comes to athletes who turn pro young: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Lebron James, to name a few. How can you pass up big money when it's available? Who's to say they won't get injured and not have opportunities like this down the road? All these are valid points. But, watching Michelle stink it up makes me wonder if she doesn't wish she could go back to hitting balls on the driving range. Because, right now, she's not a valid professional. She's more like Happy Gilmore. She gets invited to tournaments because she can hit the ball far and draw a crowd. That's not a solid foundation for a career.