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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2001

11-year-old no match for 43-year-old

 •  Yesterday's Manoa Cup results

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Michelle Wie's precocious presence in the 93rd Manoa Cup did not cause the sky to fall. It only seemed that way on a rainy Tuesday.

Michelle Wie, who just completed the sixth grade, takes a practice swing prior to her first-round match of the Manoa Cup against Los Angeles businessman Doug Williams (in background). Williams won 3 and 2, then said, "Frankly, she is better than a lot of the guys. I had to play well to beat her."

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Wie, an 11-year-old with size-11 feet and an oh-so-sweet swing, became the first female to play in the state amateur match play golf championship. Her appearance was cut short by Doug Williams, who defeated Wie, 3 and 2, in the first round.

Then Williams, possibly the most relieved man on the island, shook his head and tried to articulate what he had witnessed.

"This girl certainly has an enormous future," the 43-year-old from Los Angeles said. "Really, at 11, to be able to do that . . . it's mind-boggling."

Soon after, a storm hit, making O'ahu Country Club's already saturated course unplayable. The second round was suspended and will start again this morning, followed by the third. The 36-hole final is Saturday.

Defending champion Randy Shibuya, a 1-up winner over Nate Powell, is the only former winner advancing.

Four-time champion Brandan Kop fell to Kuakapu Hewett, 2 and 1. Two-time champ Guy Yamamoto lost to Eric Molina, 4 and 2. Damien Victorino (1996) and Art Fujita (1964) were also ousted in the opening round.

But it was Wie, who just finished the sixth grade at Punahou School, who caused the most commotion yesterday. She had a gallery from the beginning. By the end — an uncharacteristic bogey-bogey concession — 50 people were either following Wie and Williams, or sneaking peeks from OCC's treacherous lookouts.

"She is such a phenom, she really is," said Williams, who was out-driven by Wie most of the day. "Her swing is perfect. Every shot she hits is solid. Frankly, she is better than a lot of the guys. I had to play well to beat her. I didn't hit the ball well, but I scored decently. She is good."

That was obvious a year ago, when Wie became the youngest amateur to play in a U.S. Golf Association championship. Wie's legend grew last month when she won the Jennie K. Invitational — one of Hawai'i's three women's majors — by nine shots.

When she became the first female to qualify for the Manoa Cup Monday — in her first look at the course — the consensus was the guys were glad she made it, but didn't want any part of playing against her.

"The last thing you want to do is lose to an 11-year-old girl," said Williams, who helps develop golf courses in Southeast Asia. He is based in Hong Kong and spends two months a year here.

Williams never trailed yesterday, winning the first two holes (10 and 11) on nerve-induced Wie bogeys. She birdied the next two to tie the match, lost the next two, then won the 17th and 18th to make the turn even.

Williams called the 425-yard first hole the turning point. He left his second shot 26 feet below the hole. Wie followed with an approach shot eight feet left.

Williams slam-dunked his birdie putt. Wie snaked hers in. Under ordinary circumstances, it would have been an eagle — OCC's first hole is a par-5 for women — but there was nothing ordinary about this match.

"I hit a pretty good shot in, it's tough to get on that green," Williams said. "She hit a great shot. I suspected she would make hers. When mine went in, that put momentum on my side."

He would one-putt five of the front nine's first six greens, winning the second, fourth and fifth holes to pull away. Even with his game in "emergency mode" off the tee near the end, Williams played 16 holes in 1-under par.

Wie was two over, and ready for more match play. She'll get it later this month at her second U.S. Public Links Championship, which was her incentive for playing Manoa Cup all along.

"I made a lot of birds, and a lot of bogeys, but I think I made a good score," Wie said. "He made a lot of putts ... and he got some lucky bounces, so I'm not really sad."

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SHORT PUTTS: For the second straight year, Michelle Wie will represent Oahu at the U.S. Public Links. She will be joined by Hilo's Leah Whiting, who was medalist at Ala Wai last month, and Taiwan's Chin Huei Hungh. ... Hawai'i's Lenore (Muraoka) Rittenhouse finished tied for eighth at the Hy-Vee Classic last week in Des Moines, Iowa. Rittenhouse shot 4-over-par 148 to earn $12,000. Colleen Walker (142) won the first of three 2001 Women's Senior Golf Tour events. ... Also last week, Hilo's Christel Tomori tied for 30th at the SBC Futures $60,000 Aurora Health Care Charity Classic. Tomori won $474, shooting 75-75-73ö223. Beth Bauer won at 212. Tomori tied for 11th the week before in Michigan.