As 2009 comes to an end, here are some parting thoughts, observations and incidents from the world of women’s golf:
Best interview of the year is a no-brainer: Michelle Wie. It’s not easy getting one-on-one time with the Big Wiesy, so the one-day trek to Palm Desert, Calif., in late November was well worth it. What made this chat so intriguing? It didn’t feel scripted.
Week after week Wie, 20, spews out the same lines to scribes in a non-descript tent. Perhaps she slips into a media trance when the cameras turn on. In the Bighorn locker room, however, Wie spoke like a normal college student.
For once, she was real.
The multi-millionaire athlete talked about her love of thrift stores and $1 jeans. If you haven’t checked out Wie’s blog – ablackflamingo.blogspot.com – it’s a must read. She’s fascinated with do-it-yourself projects.
Wie was patient during a lengthy interview for Golfweek’s Jan. 1 issue. As her parents and a member of the IMG team sat nearby, Wie talked about her triumphs and struggles since turning professional.
Who knew, for example, that during Wie’s wrist debacle, she unknowingly also suffered from a number of food allergies. She ate eggs every morning and almonds on the golf course before doctors told her she was allergic to both, along with dairy, flaxseed, cherry and pineapple (sad for a Hawaiian!).
“I was actually really sick a lot of time,” Wie said. “My body just shut down after a while.”
Americans love to discover what makes their big-money athletes tick. It’s my hope that as Wie matures and (fingers crossed) finds more success, she will begin to open up more to the scribes she sees on a regular basis.
More fun for everyone.
Can you hear me now? Once I had nailed down the contents of the now-somewhat-famous letter that called for the resignation of LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens, I needed to give Bivens a chance to respond. The LPGA communications office was slow to respond, so for the first time ever, I called Bivens’ cell. Her husband, Bill, answered the phone. He said I needed to go through the proper channels to reach his wife. I tried to explain myself, but by the time I finished talking I realized he was gone. Either he walked into a forest mid-conversation and lost his signal, or Mr. Commish hung up on me. I’m guessing the latter.
Sacred ground: My dad is one of those range rats who claims to discover Ben Hogan’s secret every other weekend. When he found out I was heading to Shady Oaks last spring to profile Fort Worth’s Angela Stanford, he turned green with golf envy.
Ben Hogan’s practice areas are hallowed ground, no doubt. I hit a couple of balls under Hogan’s tree and felt first-tee jitters. Stanford practices under Hogan’s tree when she needs to channel greatness. She claims to never hit it poorly there, but wouldn’t let our photographer take her picture under the tree.
Some traditions are simply too sacred.
Singled out: Best travel incident of the year occurred on my way home from the Women’s British Open. I had arrived at the Manchester airport more than two hours before my Virgin Atlantic flight. I stood in line for a lifetime only to discover that my seat had been given away. I was puzzled watching families continue to check in.
“You’re the last single person to check in,” the gate agent said, emphasizing the word “single.” I later learned that a flight had been canceled a few days prior, and they had given my seat away, presumably to a family of holiday-makers I’d later see wearing fanny-packs at home on Orlando’s I-Drive.
Eventually, I was booked on a Delta flight and upgraded to business class. I could laugh about it by the time the ice cream sundae rolled around during my second in-flight movie.
Back of the bus sighting: This year’s best I-can’t-believe-you’re-flying-coach award goes to Golf Channel President Page Thompson. It was a flight to Chicago for the Solheim Cup and Thompson was eating peanuts in the back of the plane with several other Golf Channel employees. That’s always nice to see, especially in this economy.
Lunch for whom? I spent some time at Lake Nona earlier this year with a top LPGA player who had recently moved into the neighborhood. A group of us had lunch in the clubhouse and someone in the party told the waiter to put it on the player’s tab.
“Who was that?” the waiter soon asked our photographer.
Just the fourth-best player in the world.
Quote of the Year: “My father sat me down and said, ‘This is what we exchanged for your mother’s life. I’m going to invest this in you, so be successful. Go get it.’ ” – Jiyai Shin on the death of her mother, who died when Jiyai was 15 years old. Shin’s father poured the leftover life insurance money, $17,000, into her golf game after paying off family debts.