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This Day In Sports…May 15, 2003, 20 years ago today:
In the midst of a national hubbub over Annika Sorenstam’s upcoming appearance in a PGA Tour event (the Colonial) the following week, the Albertson’s Boise Open announces a sponsor’s exemption for 13-year-old Hawaiian phenom Michelle Wie. The six-foot-tall eighth-grader with the 290-yard drives would be the first female ever to play a Nationwide Tour event. While some dismissed it as a publicity stunt, Wie had had a track record. She had finished ninth that March at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, one of the LPGA Tour’s majors.
Boise Open organizer Jeff Sanders really outdid himself this time, getting the tournament on sports pages all over the country. ESPN.com ran an online poll asking what readers thought of a teenage girl in the field of a Nationwide Tour event. The choices were “good for her,” “this is starting to get ridiculous,” and “who cares?” The verdict in that unscientific study: “good” 42 percent, “getting ridiculous” 39 percent and “who cares” only 19 percent among the more than 17,000 voters.
Wie missed the cut when the Albertsons Boise Open rolled around in September, done in by a seven-over 78 in the first round. She sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole that fired up a huge Hillcrest Country Club gallery, but things went south from there. Wie’s appearance was great for the tournament, giving it and Boise tremendous national exposure and providing fans with some nice memories. But Wie’s sponsor’s exemption wasn’t without controversy, as it took a spot away from those toiling to qualify for Nationwide Tour events. “Let her put up $4,000 and go through Q-school,” snipped John Cook.
In October of 2005, a week before she turned 16, Wie announced she was turning pro. But she could only play a limited number of LPGA Tour events until she was 18. She continued to compete against men, without any notable success. Wie didn’t win her first pro tournament until 2009, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico. She did win the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. But Wie, now 33 and known as Michelle Wie West, has only five career victories on the LPGA Tour. She announced a year ago that she would stepping away from golf following the U.S. Women’s Open last June to spend more time with her family and on her business endeavors.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)
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