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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2003

Wie tees off in LPGA major

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Punahou eighth-grader Michelle Wie tees off in her first LPGA major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, this morning in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

What has she done since driving in from Los Angeles Saturday? "I had my first Oreo," Wie joked in the interview room.

What does she dream of doing Sunday afternoon? "Jumping in the lake would be nice," Wie typed in the LPGA.com chat room Tuesday.

Traditionally, the winner jumps into the lake along the 18th hole at Mission Hills Country Club's Dinah Shore Course. That has been Annika Sorenstam the past two years.

It is not in Wie's nature to boast, or back down from a challenge.

"I don't think it's not possible to say anything," Wie insisted — as only a 13-year-old can — about being in contention Sunday. "I could possibly go into the last group. It's not like it's impossible or anything."

Wie has spent the past two years proving practically anything is possible. She won the Jennie K., Hawai'i's most hallowed full-field women's event, at the age of 11. At 12, she became the youngest to qualify for an LPGA event, and reach the semifinals of the U.S. Women's Public Links.

She has played the past two Hawai'i State Amateur Stroke Play Championships, tying for fourth — against 103 men and two other girls — a few weeks ago. In January, she was 47th at the Sony Open in Hawai'i qualifier, ahead of 50 men.

Her summer is booked with five more LPGA stops, at least one men's Canadian Tour tournament and a flurry of major national and local events. Her dream is to play the Masters.

"It's nice to see that you have a young woman that doesn't limit herself and just wants to be better and better," Sorenstam said. "I like that attitude."

Pretty much everyone that's seen the 6-footer bash a ball — from Vijay Singh to Se Ri Pak — has been mesmerized by her potential and 280-yard drives.

Still, Wie has yet to win away from home and is the first to admit her game is just beginning to mature. It is becoming easier to adapt to the "fast, super fast" greens and "sticky" rough. Even the pressure that comes with cover stories in Golf Week and ESPN The Magazine — to say nothing of the recognition by construction workers at Punahou — is easier to deal with now.

Wie insists this is "just a tournament" in her short-yet-sweet career, despite the opportunity to meet Nancy Lopez and play with Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner.

"She was really nice," Wie said of Carner. "A really cool person. She turns 64 this year. A long time ago her driving average was 285. She said her longest drive is 310. She still hits the ball really far."

Wie tees off with Californians Natalie Gulbis, 20, and Christina Kim, 19, this morning. Sorenstam, Wie's LPGA idol, goes out two hours earlier. In May, Sorenstam goes up against the PGA. Wie, who says she is "just a part" of local men's tournaments now because she's played so many, has this advice.

"Don't listen to people who are criticizing you," Wie said. "I don't know, just play great."