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Women taking on the PGA Tour

Women. Can't live with 'em, can't beat 'em at golf.

At least that is exactly what 13-year-old Michelle Wie expects the old adage to look like after she gets done with the sport. This past Monday, Wie shot a 1-over par 73 in Hawaii in an attempt to qualify for the Sony Open. Wie was among 95 other competitors, all male.

Think she'd be a good fit at Augusta?

It was her second attempt to make the Sony Open field. The Honolulu native tried back in 2000, when she was all of 10, and fired an 84. This time, she brought more of her game, but still was disappointed in her score and the fact that she did not qualify for the event.
In describing her round, she sounds more like a veteran pro than an eighth-grader.

"It was just the stupid mistakes that I had," she said. "I just have to have more experience, eliminate the bogeys, and make the birdies."

Wie's attempt to play on the PGA Tour comes less than a year after Suzy Whaley qualified for this summer's Greater Hartford Open. Whaley was apprehensive to play the event, but has since decided that she will compete.

What sets Wie apart from Whaley is her attitude. While Whaley gracefully accepted the chance to play, Wie is ready to seize it with all of her might.

"I think someday we'll be better," said Wie, in referring to the quality of male and female golfers. "Women strive harder and they have better goals."

Brash? Idealistic? Naive?

Who cares?

What's wrong with a girl who not only thinks, but truly believes that she can outplay anyone in the world, men included? Michelle Wie is not just looking to become the best female golfer, but the best golfer. Period.

And what makes Michelle Wie's effort to become that gender-transcending superstar is her size. Wie stands 5-10 and can smack drives of 300 yards. Did I mention she played the same tees as the boys last Monday, including Chi-Chi Rodriguez's nephew, with whom she was paired?

In qualifying for the GHO, Whaley played from shorter tees than the men. When she competes this summer in Hartford, she will play from the same tees as everyone else, but the host course, The TPC at River Highlands, is one of the shortest courses on Tour. At less than 6,900 yards, Whaley's lack of length will not be as much of a disadvantage at other PGA Tour venues.

But Wie is not looking to sidestep that obstacle, and she doesn't need to. She's playing the tips, and she can keep up with the big boys.

Why is length so important in the blurring of the gender line in golf? Take Annika Sorenstam as an example. Last year, she had arguably the best year any player has ever had on the LPGA Tour, and certainly one of the best years in golf on any tour. She won 13 of the 25 in which she played worldwide, and finished in the top five 19 times in 23 LPGA Tour events.

But Sorenstam is not a long-hitter of the golf ball, even by LPGA standards. She may have a stronger will, a better putting stroke, and more clutch shots in her than some (or most) of her PGA Tour counterparts, but she is miles behind them off the tee. So many miles that it would be impossible for her to keep up on a PGA Tour length course.

Wie, on the other hand, has the length and the overall game to possibly become the first woman on Tour. Sure, she will never lead the Tour in driving distance, but if she can keep up with even the shortest of hitters, there's a chance.

Becoming the first woman to play full-time on the PGA Tour is not just about distance and accuracy though, but about character and fearlessness. Assuming it will happen, the first woman on Tour will have to be someone with the courage of five men. She will have to be someone with enough grit to handle playing with men, and even if she loses, she'll be someone looking forward to getting right back out there. She will be someone with the drive and motivation to keep her from "settling" for the LPGA Tour. She will have to be someone crazy enough to believe that a woman can beat a whole lot of men in a sport that has never seen such a thing happen.

Perhaps that someone is Michelle Wie

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