Side Lines for Saturday — October 01, 2005

• Wie to turn pro on Wednesday


Wie to turn pro on Wednesday

Doug Ferguson – ASSOCIATED PRESS

Michelle Wie will stick to her routine by going to school Wednesday, with one notable exception.

She will be the only junior at Punahou School who already is a millionaire.

Six days before she turns 16, still not old enough to drive car by herself, the 6-foot prodigy will turn professional with two endorsement deals that will make her the richest female golfer.

Two sources involved with her decision, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wie will make the announcement at 8 a.m. Wednesday in Honolulu at the Kahala Mandarin Hotel near Waialae Country Club, where she twice played in the Sony Open and shot 68 as a 14-year-old.

The time was set early so she could still go to school. That weekend, she will fly to the California desert and make her professional debut in the Samsung World Championship at Bighorn.

But the money will start pouring in no matter how she fares in the 18-player field.

The sources said Wie will sign two major endorsements, with Nike and Sony.

One source said the Nike contract would pay her about $4 million to $5 million a year. Nike prefers its athletes to have a clean look with no other logos, meaning Wie would have the swoosh on her cap and clothing. Tiger Woods has a dozen sponsors, but only the Nike logo is displayed on his clothing.

Wie has been using Nike equipment the last few years, and wearing its apparel.

The other major endorsement is with Sony, which is believed to be worth close to the Nike deal.

Sony officials got to know Wie during her two appearances at the Sony Open. She shot 68 in the second round last year — the lowest score ever by a female competing on a men’s tour — and missed the cut by one shot. She returned this year and shot 75-74 in blustery conditions to miss the cut by seven shots.

One executive from Sony walked all 18 holes of her second round in 2004.

Along with appearance money to play overseas, Wie could bring in about $10 million a year beyond whatever she makes on the golf course. Annika Sorenstam, whose 66 victories on the LPGA Tour include nine majors and the career Grand Slam, earns about $6 million a year in endorsements.

Along with playing in the Samsung World Championship on Oct. 13 — two days after she turns 16 — Wie will play the Casio World Open in Japan the week of Thanksgiving, her first tournament overseas against the men. “The courses in Japan are not as tough as here, they’re not as long as they are in the United States,” Shigeki Maruyama said Friday from the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. “She should have a very good chance of making the cut over there.” Wie figures to have even greater recognition overseas, especially in Asia, than in the United States. She was born in Honolulu and has a Korean heritage, and speaks to her parents primarily in Korean.

“The LPGA is very popular in Japan,” Maruyama said. “She will be a big star.”

Wie is unlikely to play any other tournaments this year.

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