PaloAlto¬†(Calif.) High didn't have a girls' golf team when I was a studentthere in the mid 1990s. I wasn't surprised, because I didn't know any girls myage who played, but I didn't believe that should prevent me from representingmy school, so as a freshman I tried out for the boys' team.
I was theshortest-hitting player by at least 30 yards, but the rules required me to playfrom the same tees as the guys. That meant I had to work harder around thegreens to make up strokes. I didn't make the roster until my sophomore year anddidn't earn a spot as one of the six traveling players until I was a senior,but the competition was only a fraction of the challenge I faced playing withthe boys.
When my teammatesput together foursomes after school, I was rarely invited to participate. Onthose occasions when I did join them, I had a sense that they perceived me lessas a teammate than as some kind of entertainment. Rather than suffer theirleering, whispering and laughing, I preferred to practice alone or play as asingle. When I played my way into matches by shooting good rounds in practice,some of my teammates questioned my scores. I felt humiliated and demoralized,but I endured because I loved golf and knew I had earned my spot.
I imagineMichelle Wie can relate. When she tees it up this week in Japan as the onlywoman in the field at the Casio World Open, it's likely that she'll hear fromher chorus of critics. She has struggled playing against the men this year, andthe media has been clamoring for her to confine herself to LPGA events, inwhich she has been a consistent threat to win. But why should Wie have tosettle for a tour that offers less visibility, money and competition?
Whether a womanwants to pursue a career as an executive, an engineer or a comedian, she willbe in the minority. However, we would never suggest that she doesn't belong orrecommend that she limit herself to jobs more commonly populated by women. Bypursuing competition against men, Wie reflects the world as it actually existsto a generation of young women: Sometimes you have to play with the boys,either because it's your only option, as I learned in high school, or becauseit presents the best opportunities, as Wie has proven.
In my personaland professional life I have often found myself in situations in which I am theonly woman, but that's when I feel the most empowered and confident, due inlarge part to my experiences playing high school golf. And I am never more inmy element than on the golf course.
This summer I wasplaying a round with the men in my family when my dad proposed a long-drivecontest on the 18th tee. It was deeply satisfying to find that this time theball that landed farthest down the fairway belonged to the only girl.
Jessica Shamborais a client marketing associate at SI.
GOLF PLUS willnext appear in the Dec. 18 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
The ADT's cutthroat format invigorated an otherwiseordinary event.
The Tour tweaks the FedEx Cup playoff series, adding acut that stings
[NO-CUT FORMAT X¬†STUBBORNNESS] + [SNIPING PRIME XEXAMPLE] + FLIP-FLOPPING=A REAL PLAYOFF
COURTESY OF JESSICA SHAMBORA
Shambora (pictured in 1996) believes that Wie, who plays in a men's event inJapan this week, is doing the right thing.