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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 18, 2002

Wie improves, but misses cut

By Pete Iacobelli
Associated Press

Michelle Wie hits out of the trap on the 16th green at Mount Vintage Plantation in North Augusta, S.C.

Associated Press

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Punahou's Michelle Wie will remember the friendly fans and hills of Mount Vintage Plantation. The 12-year-old golfer will want to forget her putting at the Asahi Ryokuken International.

Wie improved yesterday with a 3-over-par 75. But combined with her opening 81, she missed the cut (149) with a 12-over 156 at her second LPGA tournament.

"My putting, it was so bad," said Wie, a soft-spoken seventh-grader who had a hard time sounding positive about her LPGA experience.

Fortunately, when you're 12, bad memories don't linger.

"You know what she was doing in the shower yesterday?" said her father and caddie, B.J. Wie. "Singing and dancing. After shooting an 81."

Wie, nicknamed "The Big Wiesy" by Tom Lehman — after PGA star Ernie Els who is known as the Big Easy — when he played with her at the Sony Open in Hawai'i pro-am in January, was given a sponsor's exemption here. In February she became the youngest to get through qualifying for an LPGA tournament, at the Takefuji Classic.

She shot 72-74 at the season-opening tournament at Waikoloa Beach Resort to miss weekend play.

Mount Vintage was a different story for the 5-foot-11 Wie.

The course's valleys required precise yardage estimates, something team Wie is still developing.

"Every time I come out to the course, my distance changes," she said. "That makes it a problem."

She became more confident in her swing as the week progressed, but never combined her amazing length with the right touch around the greens. Wie's average driving distance this week was 277 yards; Wendy Doolan led the tour last year at 266.

But don't forget — Wie is only 12.

"She hits it better than a lot of the girls out here," said Michelle Ellis, a second-year pro grouped with Wie this week. "She's probably one of the best ballstrikers I've seen."

Grace Park, sixth on the money list this season and among the Top 20 in driving last year, played a practice round with Wie. Park was amazed when the youngster outdrove her.

"I'm one of the longest out here," Park said, "and she got by me with a 4-wood. And I hit my driver. But it looks like she's working too hard. I hope she can relax a little bit and have a little fun."

Wie will play an 18-hole U.S. Open qualifier in Duluth, Ga., Wednesday. If she gets through there, she'll be in a U.S. Open sectional in Valencia, Calif., next month. In between, she will try to qualify for the Manoa Cup. Last year she was the first female to qualify for match play.