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Cultural Affirmative Action and Golf by Selwyn Duke, Posted April 30, 2013

Michelle_Wie.JPGWhatever happened to that 14-year-old Asian golf phenom who aspired to play the PGA Tour? She made tens of millions of dollars based on hype, and he became the youngest player to ever make a tour cut. No, that’s not a typo.

He is Guan Tianlang, the Chinese golf sensation who just made the cut in the Masters — one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive golf tournaments — and now made the cut again in his very next appearance, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. She is Michelle Wie, the erstwhile phenom who was hailed and then failed, never making a PGA cut despite talking bigger than Tianlang’s accomplishment. And their different treatment by the media speaks volumes about the left’s hold on society.

When the 6’1”, 14-year-old Wie hit the scene around 2004, she was lauded as an Amazon sports-womyn for the ages who would break sex barriers in golf and show the boys a thing or two. The media just loved the narrative, providing exposure that made her famous beyond golf’s fan base and leading to endorsement contracts of which most adult professional golfers can only dream. This, despite her having won only one women’s amateur tournament of note and nothing professionally even on the women’s tour; it was sort of like Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize based only on being black and “there,” even though there was no there there. Heck, it was like Obama winning the presidency itself as a result of the media portraying him as a political phenom whose oratory and policy were always 300 yards down the middle. The difference is that popularity alone doesn’t translate into golf success — you actually have to perform.

In contrast, the 5’8”, 140-pound Tianlang has already shattered records. Becoming the youngest player to make a Masters cut was impressive enough, but following it up the next time out by becoming the youngest to ever make an official PGA Tour cut amounts to possibly the greatest accomplishment ever by a young teenage athlete. Yet Tianlang’s exposure is a 20-handicap to Wie’s scratch.

Some of the reasons for this are legitimate. Wie is an American, Tianlang is a foreigner, and it always adds another newsworthy dimension to a story when a girl is trying to compete in men’s sports. And Wie certainly fed the media delusion, making statements such as “My favorite player is Tiger Woods. I think I can beat Tiger when I'm 20. It's a life goal” and “If I ever get bored with golf, I'm going to start over and play left-handed.” But as to that life goal, perhaps Wie believes in reincarnation and was talking about her next life (with a different chromosome configuration?), as she is now already 23 and hasn’t even dominated the women’s tour. She has never won a women’s major, has captured only two LPGA events in eight years as a professional, and finished 2012 at 62 in the rankings. And the hype is history as there has been precious little good news on the Wie front — except that she won’t have to worry about getting bored with golf.

But only one reason fully explains why Wie was so ridiculously over-hyped and overrated: cultural affirmative action. This is when, as I once defined it, “people in the market and media privilege others — sometimes unconsciously — based upon the latter’s identification with a ‘victim group.’” It isn’t just that the media had an interesting man-bites-dog story; it’s that, as is often the case, they were cheerleaders. They had a would-be Amazon they thought would neuter those patriarchal male dogs, and they so, so badly wanted it to happen. It’s the same phenomenon Rush Limbaugh alluded to (and doing so cost him his NFL commentary position) when opining that quarterback Donovan McNabb was over-hyped because the “media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.”  

And what of Tianlang being a “minority” himself? Irrelevant. Like whites, Asians are discriminated against via even actual affirmative action because they’re often high achievers. But being female as is Wie or black as is McNabb is a another matter; then the exact species of cultural affirmative action may be different — feminism in one case and black privilege in the other — but the result is identical: people receiving undeserved benefits.

This phenomenon just may make Hillary Clinton our next president, too. And after our current cultural-affirmative-action bogey man, that would be the political equivalent of hitting a ball into the woods, taking a penalty stroke, and then shanking the next one into the water. So, no, folks, America won’t be making the cut.

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