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Original Issue

The Pepper Mill

IN LESS than six years Michelle Wie, the innocent, happy, supertalented phenom from Hawaii, has become what so many feared she would: overexposed, miserable and manipulated. The transformative moment came two weeks ago at the Ginn Tribute, during which Michelle—after conferring with her father, B.J.; her agent, Greg Nared; and LPGA officials—withdrew while on the brink of shooting an 88, a score that would've made her ineligible for further play on tour this year. Wie claimed that pain in her left wrist, which she broke in January, caused the WD, but she hadn't requested previous treatment, and two days later she was on the course at Bulle Rock preparing for the McDonald's LPGA Championship. Given a chance to apologize or at least justify the contradictions, Wie reacted defiantly.

Instead of becoming the great player and professional that she has shown the potential to become, Michelle has shown disrespect (especially over the last two weeks) for the game and its traditions. For the first time she came across as a self-centered, unapologetic brat.

The LPGA could have handled the withdrawal better. Admitting that the tour needs Michelle and the attention she brings is no crime, but not being truthful about the initial conversations surrounding the WD was improper. The LPGA is not the source of the problem, though. That, sadly, is the greed and short-sightedness of the two people closest to Michelle, the people charged with molding her into a complete, independent and responsible person: B.J. and her mother, Bo.

The Wies used to be open to the media and the golf world in general. Now they operate under a veil of secrecy and deception, even though they are surrounded by good people giving good advice, which they simply ignore. The fact that it took four months to admit she had a broken left wrist (which happened when Michelle fell while jogging) should tell everyone that there is something horribly wrong with this picture.

With multimillion-dollar contracts to consider, there's pressure on the Wies, both for Michelle to get back on the course and to preserve her playing privileges. But what about the big picture? Kids trip and fall. So what? Sponsors understand that. Contracts can be adjusted. What can't be recovered so easily is a childhood that's not only been tarnished but also stolen.