We’ll remember Wie in Winnipeg

Memorable week for fans and hopefully, for the winner, too

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As finishes go, it was picture-perfect.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/08/2010 (4372 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As finishes go, it was picture-perfect.

The pristine scene at the 18th green: Michelle Wie, the most famous of the bunch, taking a victory lap home with a two-shot cushion on the field at the CN Canadian Women’s Open. Thousands of golf groupies bringing her home. Dusk just beginning to fall.

Not a breath of wind on a cool, late summer afternoon. Dead quiet except for a lone Canada goose, far overhead, going the wrong way.

JOHN WOODS /The Canadian Press Michelle Wie’s career has been long on hype but short on victories, but her performance at St. Charles proves the victories will begin to pile up.

But it was Wie making all the birdies at St. Charles. Three straight at 13, 14 and 15 clinched the second LPGA title of the 20-year-old’s once can’t-miss career.

It may be the victory that finally puts Wie on the champion’s map, after her skyrocketing emergence as a pre-teen phenom from Honolulu a decade ago. After all, Wie was to be the LPGA’s Tiger, the face of women’s golf in the 21st century.

At age 10, she qualified for the USGA Amateur championship. At 13, she played her first LPGA event. At 15, she turned professional. Pegged for stardom, Wie drove off the tee at a PGA event against grown men before she could drive a car.

So if you don’t think the folks who run the Canadian Women’s Open had a rooting interest in Wie prevailing on Sunday — if you don’t think her victory had organizers at St. Charles feeling warm and giddy all over — you would be underestimating the international power of the Wie brand.

From here on out, the record books will show that Wie’s second LPGA victory was the CN Canadian Women’s Open. In Winnipeg. At the St. Charles Country Club.

No offence to the cluster of four women who finished three shots back — Kristy McPherson, Suzann Pettersen, Jee Young Lee and Jiyai Shin — but we’re guessing the house was crossing their fingers and hoping Wie, Wie, Wie all the way home.

If anything, in fact, just to be reminded that Wie won’t celebrate her 21st birthday until October is to give pause. Even as friend and fellow competitor Christina Kim doused Wie with champagne at the 18th, the first thought was, "Is that legal?" Because it wouldn’t have been in North Dakota.

It’s the power of the mass marketing. Wie has been in the public conscience for so long now — in 2006, Time magazine named her "one of the 100 people that would shape our world" — that it’s hard to believe she could still be a sophomore in university.

Asked to summarize Wie’s victory, the bubbly Shin noted: "She’s growing up."

Perhaps those are words of wisdom, given Wie’s bubble-like existence to date. She has been raised in the glare of a Twitter generation, thrust into the global limelight at the age when most kids are choosing which lunch box they want for school.

In interview sessions, Wie’s answers seem almost scripted, rehearsed. Clearly, the force fields were established around her over the years.

Indeed, it was refreshingly out of character on Sunday when Wie, asked if she had a chance to get away from the course this week, quipped, in Bob and Doug McKenzie fashion, "I didn’t really have a chance to go oot and aboot."

See? The hoser is coming out of Michelle Wie already.

Because this was a truly Canadian Open. Amidst the sun-baked Friday, there was the frosty morning on Saturday. And a little rain, too.

The Great While North in the dying days of summer.

And as for that $337,000 winner’s cheque, Wie might have given it all for a can of bug spray on the back nine. You don’t get any more Canadiana (or Winnipeg) than that, folks.

Undoubtedly, that’s what Wie will talk about when they ask her about the Canadian Open years from now. She may remember the mosquitoes, damn them all, but she should remember them fondly.

She’ll remember every nook and cranny of St. Charles, too. She’ll remember getting sprayed on the 18th green, and the quaint dialect of the locals.

And Wie will forever have that photo of herself holding the Canadian Open trophy, which looks like a renovated and shiny version of the Grey Cup.

Who knows? Years from now, if Wie manages to live up to half of the overwhelming expectations, someone might ask about the turning point of her career. What gave her the confidence to fulfil the enormous promise bestowed upon her so long ago?

And Wie’s answer might be, "I think it all began for me in a place called Winnipeg…."

If she doesn’t remember, that’s okay.

We will.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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