TEED OFF
By Robert Bicknell
 

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October 22, 2006

Red Hot Mexican Chili Pepper…

People still ask me why I decided to leave Kings’ Island Golf and have a hard time accepting the most simple and honest of reasons... I wanted to spend more time with my family.

Look, there is no mystery to it. I’ve been in the golf industry as a professional for almost 28 years, I now have a two-year-old daughter and want to enjoy watching her grow up. Is that so difficult to comprehend?

This is not as strange as it sounds. Professional golfers don’t peak as early in their lives as basketball or football players. When those guys are thinking of retirement at the grand old age of 30, golf pros are just reaching their stride.

For example, Steve Stricker, failed to get through the final stage of Q-school and could only get in three tournaments the first 15 weeks of the season. Yet he zapped two top 10s in the majors and had played well just about everywhere else. He moved up to No. 32 on the money list and was considered for the Ryder Cup team.

You would think that someone who escaped career death by a thread and is now on a roll would do everything to keep it going, right? Hey, he qualified for all the US majors next year, right?

Nope, Stricker turned down exemptions to Greensboro and Disney and is hanging up the clubs for the rest of the season because he has a new 5-month old daughter and a 8-year old son. Naturally, he wants to spend some time at home.

I can understand that.


Well, Mexican Ambassador to Vietnam Ricardo Camara must be dancing around his office given the performances this year by Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa on the LPGA Tour, especially after her last win at the Samsung World Championship.

She’s having a great year, so much so that Karrie Webb or Annika Sorenstam would have to win one of the last few tournaments to stop the red-hot Ochoa from grabbing Player Of The Year honours.

The closest anyone has come to challenging Sorenstam's supremacy during the last five years was Se Ri Pak and that didn’t last too long but Ochoa is different. She set an NCAA record by winning eight straight tournaments at Arizona, and she has never finished lower than ninth on the LPGA Tour money list in her four years.

Which brings me to my latest favourite target for abuse…Michelle Wie. Yes, I’ve stopped attacking Phil Mickelson, mostly because it was like shooting fish in a barrel. No fun anymore.

The latest major change in Little Michelle’s world is that she has a new agent.

Obviously, it was the agent’s fault that Ms Hype didn’t win anything. But I guess an income of almost $20 million bucks in on-course earnings, endorsements and appearance fees makes it easier to accept mediocrity.

I’m wondering if she will become golf’s version of the Boston Red Sox…fans still go to see them play, but know that heartbreak is just around the corner.

At present, Wie has a wonderful new streak of 08 rounds without breaking par, yet is making piles of cash by finishing 2nd or 3rd…or 17th as she did in the Samsung event.

She withdrew from the John Deere Classic with heat exhaustion, sacked her caddie after tying for 26th in the Women's British Open, finished last in the European Masters in Switzerland and the 84 Lumber Classic in Pennsylvania while competing against men.

Some people wonder how long this circus is going to continue, but the fact of the matter is that as long as people pay money to see her and sponsors feel they’re getting return on investment, they will continue to accept her un-winning ways.

Don’t get me wrong, Wie has brought a lot of attention to the LPGA, which is a good thing as it increases both purses and media coverage, but it does cause resentment when the winner of the event receives less media coverage than Wie does when she fails to win…again.

Friends ask me if I want my daughter to be a professional golfer when she grows up and frankly I’m tired of the question. At two-years old, it’s a little premature dontcha think?

"She could be another Michelle Wie!" they exclaim.

I sincerely hope not.


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