Golf World reports Michelle Wie to turn pro before her 16th birthday
John Hawkins writes the following over at the Golf Weekly's website.
Michelle Wie will turn pro sometime between now and Oct. 11, her 16th birthday -- perhaps as early as next week -- and, in so doing, will become the world's highest-paid female golfer. According to sources involved in the negotiations who requested anonymity, Wie will sign endorsement deals with three companies (one believed to be Nike) worth an estimated $8 million. Adding in tournament appearance fees and other endorsements, the Hawaiian teen's compensation for her first year as a pro is expected to reach $10 million -- not counting what she wins on the course. She also will enlist the services of the William Morris Agency to secure further commercial endorsements and guide her pro career, shunning traditional golf-management companies and suggesting her long-term aspirations may involve transcending the game as much as dominating it.
The sources say Wie's first professional tournament will be the LPGA's Samsung World Championship, which begins two days after her birthday at Bighorn GC in Palm Desert, Calif., an important factor in the timing of her decision to turn pro. A source says she wants to declare as soon as possible, in order to minimize any distractions in her pro debut. "[The announcement] will happen before the end of the month," says one source familiar with the Wies' thinking. "To do it at the tournament would be a bit unsettling."
Wie's alignment with William Morris formalizes a relationship that began seven or eight years ago, according to an insider, although the agency has no prior experience in representing pro golfers and has struggled in previous partnerships with athletes. By signing with a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based image machine known for its roots in the entertainment industry -- Clint Eastwood, John Travolta and Heidi Klum are among William Morris' more notable clients -- Wie continues to defy any conventional mold. Of course, such iconoclastic vitality has become one of the Hawaiian teenager's strongest marketing assets. It gave her a claim to brushfire fame after beating grown men in state competitions when she was 13 years old and has been handily cultivated since, mostly through three head-turning performances on the PGA Tour, a pair of top-five finishes in LPGA majors and her run to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in July.
I blogged earlier this week on just this possibility. The news don't surprise me in the least.
Eight million and Michelle hasn't won a tournament yet? That may ruffle a few feathers on the LPGA tour. Most players even the best I doubt get 8 million in endorsements their whole career. Just look at Meg Mallon at the 2004 US Open. Male pro golfers get paid thousands to wear a cap with some logo on it. LPGA golfers seldom do. Meg's cap read US Open when she won in 2004.
John Hawkins has another column at Golf World. It discusses Michelle's future and whether this will be the right move for her.
To me the answers are simple. Michelle has proved she can compete against the women, so turning pro was the right answer. Why should she stay amateur when just on purse money this year she would have earned over a half million? She can continue to play part-time and finish her schooling. All I say is more power to her.
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