In almost every sense of the word Jiyai Shin is the "anti-Wie." They both play golf, are nearly identical in age, and have Korean heritages. The similarities end there.
There are obvious physical disparities. Michelle Wie is an athletic, muscular 6-foot-1. Jiyai (pronounced, GEE-AYE) is nearly a foot shorter at a stout 5-foot-2. She's unassuming, with girl-next-door looks that allow her to blend into a crowd with the same ease that Wie stands out.
Then, there are the almost diametrically opposed career paths.
Both are golf prodigies, but certain critical stages in their development have made Wie and Shin's careers almost antithetical. Because of the height and strength Wie had even as a pre-teen, she was playing in LPGA tournaments at the age of twelve (she's the youngest player ever to qualify for an LPGA tournament). By the time she was fourteen she was trying her hand with the men at a PGA event. With golf legends like Arnold Palmer and Fred Couples hailing her as the future of golf, and million-dollar sponsorships coming from Nike and Sony, Wie going pro was a forgone conclusion.
Jiyai's career followed a decidedly different path.
She showed tremendous potential as a youngster, winning a KLPGA event (Korea's main circuit) as an unheralded 16-year-old, but Shin delayed her professional debut a year to finish her high school studies. When she did go pro, she won a ridiculous 10 of 19 events on the KLPGA tour. The same year she also chalked up a couple of top-ten finishes on the LPGA and European Tour; by 2008 she was ranked 8th in the world and the only non-LPGA member in the top ten. Her patience seemed to pay off. Then, during 2008 she racked up three LPGA tour wins, including a major at the British Open. Overnight she became both a Grand Slam champion and a millionaire. And she did it under the radar.
In comparison, Wie's first three years were both sobering and well-documented. She hasn't won a single tournament, and that includes 10 men's pro events (she's missed nine of those cuts). If it wasn't for her numerous sponsor exemptions, she might not have been playing at all. During that time controversies seem to mass themselves too, from unsigned tour cards to mis-dropped balls to an intentional withdraw from an event. It has now come to light, as she reveals to Eric Adelson, that she was playing hurt, and taking painkillers to manage the pain.
It could be argued that it's still too early to judge Michelle, especially in comparison to Jiyai. Both are just now entering the main stage of their careers. And Wie is off to a good start this year. In the first LPGA event, she finished second afer leading by three strokes heading into the final round. Jiyai missed the cut altogether.
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