Wie strives to balance golf with 'normal' life

The defending Canadian Women's Open champion Michelle Wie is juggling this week's tournament in Mirabel, Que., with preparing for her senior year in communications at Stanford University.

In a few weeks, Michelle Wie will return to school for her senior year at Stanford University to complete her communications degree.

She will continue to fit in a golf tournament here and there. She will defend her CN Canadian Women's Open title at the Hillsdale Golf and Country Club beginning Thursday and next month play for the American side in the Solheim Cup.

Reading and studying, however, remain more important than reading greens for Wie until she departs Stanford. The 21-year-old has no regrets about this course of action she undertook four years ago. But others don't understand why the immensely talented golfer is not honing her form full-time on the LPGA Tour.

Just last month at the U.S. Open, the great Annika Sorenstam criticized Wie for not wholly dedicating herself to the women's golf scene. Sorenstam conceded that Wie has plenty of talent, but questioned whether she was mentally tough.

"I think her focus, in my opinion, should be more on golf," Sorenstam said. "She's very distracted with school, doesn't really play as much full-time as I thought she would.

"I think she needs to come out here and compete more regularly."

Because of her swing and potential, Wie has been in the spotlight since her 12th birthday. Big things were predicted for her when she began competing against the LPGA Tour's best when she was only 15. She hit the ball longer than any other woman and her skill earned her a spot in a handful of men’s tournaments.

But it was her quest for a normal life that pushed Wie to Stanford.

"It has been difficult," Wie said, when asked about her decision. 

"I haven't made my life easier. But like I've said before and will continue to say it, 'Education has been very important to me and it was important for me to go.'

"I've learned so much about myself. I've learned so much about life in general going to college.

"It's given me an opportunity to be myself and mature as a person. Obviously, it has helped me manage my time better and has helped me make decisions.

"I'm looking forward to graduating. It has been a good experience."

Wie was supposed to dominate women's golf. But she has only two career victories, including her three-shot win a year ago at St. Charles in Winnipeg. So while Wie has pursued her degree, it has been 22-year-old Yani Tseng who has become No. 1 with five major wins already, including a pair this season.

Wie ranks 20th in the world.

"I'm going to tell you, Michelle probably is one of the most talented golfers I've ever seen," Charlottetown's Lorie Kane said. "I had the opportunity to play in a practice round with her at Carnoustie [last month at the British Women's Open].

"When Michelle decides that she really wants to be a winner in this game, I don't think there's anything stopping her. I know that Michelle isn't quite there yet because it's a process.

"She is 21. She started to play competitive golf with us when she was 15.

"I remember playing in a tournament with her in Columbus, Ohio, and she was hitting her 5-wood past my driver and I thought, 'Wow.' But it's not about hitting the ball. It's about scoring. It's about learning to play the game.

"If Tiger [Woods] says he needs more reps, well, then, Michelle probably needs more competition. The more she plays, the more confident she's going to become.

"She's going to get tired of being 10th, 15th or 20th and she's going to win. She'll win a lot."

'Golf is a very long road'

The Canadian Women’s Open will be Wie’s 14th appearance this season. She has four Top 10s, but not a single good showing in seven events over the past three months.

Her agent, Dave Haggith, dropped a loonie inside her golf bag in the hopes of changing her fortune at Hillsdale.

"Golf is a very long road," said Wie, who recently switched to a long putter.

"I've had my ups and downs. I've had my good times and bad times.

"But through all that, I've been learning about myself. I never will know whether I reach my full potential until I'm done in that you can look at it and say this was when I played my best.

"Right now, it's a constant fight. When you shoot a 64 or 65, you still feel that you could have done better.

"Obviously, I do know that I need to be better and that I need to work harder at my game. I want to be at a higher level and that requires a lot of work."

"Golf is a difficult game," she continued. "It's not as easy that it appears on TV.

"It's always a fight. At the same time, I'm proud of the way I've grown and dealt with everything that has been dealt to me.

"I'm enjoying it and that's the most important thing. I enjoy going out there every day."

Past champions competing at Hillsdale