Book review: The Sure Thing

At first glance, Eric Adelson’s retelling of Michelle Wie’s erratic young career looks like it will be a breezy two-hour read. But it quickly becomes apparent that the book will, in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, become a “long, hard slog.”

While we’re told that Adelson first interviewed Wie when she was 10 years old, it’s plain that his access to Team Wie while researching “The Sure Thing” was highly limited. He’s often forced to rely on unenlightening quotes from outsiders or, more often, newspaper accounts. At times, I couldn’t help but wonder if the book’s cover shouldn’t read, “By LexisNexis, as told to Eric Adelson.” Various newspapers are liberally quoted, rehashing information known even to casual golf fans years ago, and those accounts are supplemented by perfunctory quotes from people outside (sometimes far outside) Wie’s inner circle. The notion that “Adelson establishes a new gold standard for reporting,” as the book jacket claims, is beyond puffery. If you’re looking for insights into the golf world’s most talented, if misguided, young female player, you won’t find them here.

One of the low points occurs 42 pages in, when Adelson recounts Wie’s dust-up with Danielle Ammaccapane. Adelson offers no new information on a controversy that was covered extensively six years ago. It is, in short, a pointless exercise.

Which is a thought that kept occurring to me as I grinded through “The Sure Thing”: What is Adelson hoping to accomplish? His information, as it were, is either already well known or readily Google-able, as are his often-tedious replays of tournaments that happened several years ago. Given that, the rationale for the $25 cover price is elusive.

It’s not until page 220 that Adelson says something that strikes a nerve. He observes, correctly, that the media “seemed to forget or discount the extraordinary performance of a teenager in women’s majors over (2005-06). Instead, the golf media focused on what Michelle Wie had not done – live up to the impossibly high expectations that she had created for herself, and which her adoring public shared.”

That was regrettable, but probably inevitable, given the Wie family’s perceived arrogance. It also was easy to overlook the fact that this is the story of a prodigy with two doting parents who seemed utterly ill-equipped to orchestrate their child’s career.

And so we have the “unmaking” of Wie’s fledgling career. Adelson recounts the deterioration in Wie’s play during 2006 and, briefly in the closing chapter, during ’07. That apparently was where the story was supposed to end. But then something unexpected happened: Wie overcame injuries, got her game back, and earned her card at LPGA Q-School in 2008.

A seven-page epilogue belatedly was added to touch on Wie’s comeback. It ends with a two-page quote from Wie, who talks about the pain, physical and mental, of the previous two years. Her revealing remarks only serve to illustrate the lack of original reporting on the previous 240-plus pages.

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