SL Interview: Eric Adelson Examines the Michelle Wie Phenomenon

When Michelle Wie burst onto the golf scene, at the ripe old age of 10, she was considered a once-in-a-generation prodigy. Her picture-perfect swing was balanced and powerful; her 300-foot drives were awesome to behold. She seemed poised to challenge the best golfers on the women’s tour, not to mention fulfilling her stated goals of challenging on the PGA Tour and playing in The Masters.

In 2003, Wie won the Publinx tourney at age 13, becoming the youngest person (male or female) to win a United States Golf Association-sanctioned event. By the time she was 16, she had turned professional and recorded several Top 10 finishes on the LPGA Tour, played in tournaments against male golfers on the PGA Tour and in Asia and Europe, and signed multi-million dollar endorsement deals with (among others) Nike and Sony. Her future seemed as glorious as a Hawaiian sunset.

Her precocious start notwithstanding, Wie has not met those lofty expectations. Injuries have taken a toll – specifically, a broken wrist that she tried to play through – and she has not managed to win a tournament since the Publinx. Now 19, she is both a college student (at Stanford University) and a rookie member on the LPGA Tour. Her plans to challenge male golfers are on hold.

In “The Sure Thing: The Making and Unmaking of Golf Phenom Michelle Wie” (Ballantine Books/ESPN Books; Amazon), author Eric Adelson examines Wie’s unique and historic career. As a reporter who first wrote about Wie when she was 10, Adelson views her life both as success story and cautionary tale, one in which greed and impatience have, to date, trumped Wie’s sublime talent. He also believes that Wie has ample time to, as he writes, “seize control of her golf and her life.”

A longtime staff writer at ESPN The Magazine, Adelson is now a freelance journalist who contributes to Newsweek, Details and ESPN. SportsLetter spoke with Adelson by phone from his home in Florida.

— David Davis