12 Feb 2013
She may be still only 23 but it feels as if star American golfer, Michelle Wie, has been a part of the golfing scene for much longer than that.
Perhaps it is because of the great scrutiny she has endured since arriving on the golfing scene as a precocious talent when qualifying for a USGA event at the age of 10, the headlines she has created because of that immense talent and the at times controversial path she has chosen in her golfing career to date. There is little doubt however that the name of Michelle Wie is one immediately recognised in the world of golf.
It would seem now, after graduating from Stanford University in California with a Major in Communications in March of 2012, Wie is focused on her golfing career.
Not that she didn't enjoy her time at Stanford and feels that much better for the experience. When asked what she had gained out of her time at Stanford Wie was quick to respond.
"All that I can really remember is just wanting to go to Stanford and just kind of achieving that goal of mine was almost as important as playing golf. So just being able to do that was awesome.
"I learned a lot - time management, no one’s there telling you do this, do that, eat your dinner, do your laundry, clean your room. You just kind of really learn to do everything on your own; trust yourself, go to practice on time, put your work in, go to the gym and do your homework at the same time. I really learned to juggle a lot of things and I had a lot of fun. I made a lot of great friends and a lot of great professors. I wouldn’t trade it for anything."
Hawaiian born Wie is in Canberra for this week's ISPS Australian Women's Open in what is her first golfing trip to Australia, looking to improve on her 2012 season where in 25 events she recorded a best of 8th.
Currently ranked 66th in the world, Wie was horrified with her 2012 season and has set about restoring her confidence and her game to the levels that have seen her win twice on the LPGA Tour and record top three finishes in all four of the major championships.
"2012 was probably the worst year I’ve ever had in my entire career," said Wie in her pre tournament media conference today. "It was rough. Kind of one thing led to another and it kind of snowballed.
"The next thing I knew I was kind of struggling to keep my head above water. But I think I learned a lot from last year. I think that struggling makes you really realise what you have to work on in the game, what is really lacking and it makes you really realise that you have to work harder, you have to become a better player. I just really started from scratch.
"I got pretty low a couple of times but I just won’t let myself get to that point. It’s still something that I really love to do. At times it was a struggle, not enjoying it, but I was kind of just going out there and just really giving it my all. I had a lot of help from a lot of people.
"Sometimes you’ve got to really look at yourself. I really needed this off season I think to just kind of take some time and not try to fix everything in one week the week before a tournament or whatever, but just take a good month, two months to really let it slowly get back on track, instead of just trying to change it all in one week.
"I think that’s what I did this off season. Some reporter asked me earlier on what I worked on in the off season and I replied everything. That’s really what I had to work on after last year. Nothing was really spectacular last year so this off season I really took a lot of time just kind of ripping everything apart and starting from new.
"I saw David Leadbetter a lot this off season, a lot more than I usually did and just really working on my swing, my short game, my putting, everything. I wanted my game to be on a whole other level and hopefully 2013 will be really good."
So how much importance does Wie place on the Australian Women's Open. "Very high," she said. "It’s the first tournament of the year. I’m really excited to be over here. I think it’s a great field and I want to get off to a really good start.
"It was almost like the first day of school yesterday when I came out and seeing everyone for the first time after the off season. It’s going to be a great event. It’s a great golf course, like I said. It’s going to be challenging and great conditions, great field, so overall it’s going to be a really good event. I’m going to try my hardest this week.
The elephant in the room today was the path she and perhaps some of her minders chose early in her career to chase starts in men's events worldwide. Because she was seen as the next best thing in the female game she took advantage of invitations on the Japan, European and PGA Tours and while many in the golfing world watched on in frustration she still maintains she gained a lot out of it.
Some might argue but not Wie.
"It was really fun," she said when asked about her desire to compete against the men early in her career. "I learned a lot, I had a lot of great experiences playing in men’s events. Like I said, right now I really want to focus on playing really well on this tour, winning tournaments and making my name on this tour and just bringing my game to a whole other level; like I said, winning a lot of tournaments and majors, just really focusing on that."
For those who felt the course she had taken was the wrong one it was heartening to hear that those earlier aspirations were a thing of the past.