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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 24, 2005

A rivalry with style, substance

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

KAHUKU — If Michelle Wie says to-MAY-toe, then Paula Creamer calls it to-MAH-toe.

The two biggest teen profiles in women's golf right now are as strikingly different in style and approach as their taste in wardrobe. Wie chooses daily from an artist's palette of colors while Creamer, intent on establishing herself as the "Pink Panther," is pink — and little else — from the clothes she wears to the tees and putter grip she uses.

Which is part of what makes this budding rivalry so interesting as the SBS Open at Turtle Bay brings them here to Wie's backyard today. Both are blooming talents of remarkable potential intent on following disparate paths to differing visions of success.

Talented teens Paula Creamer, top, and Michelle Wie have different approaches to achieving greatness. They'll play in today's SBS Open.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Which of them will climb the highest and who has the better blueprint for getting to the top are elements of continuing and compelling debate. For theirs is a rivalry that could end up spanning decades given their tender years and eye-opening abilities.

Already, they shared low-amateur honors — and more than a few headlines — at last year's U.S. Women's Open and were teammates on the Curtis Cup squad.

Now, with Creamer debuting on the LPGA Tour at this first full-field event of the season and Wie scheduled to play as many as eight Tour events this year, including all four majors, the comparisons become more up close and vivid.

While Wie, the 15-year-old Punahou School sophomore, is blazing an uncharted avenue in the golf world, making it up as she goes along with untethered dreams, Creamer, an 18-year-old Californian, clings more to convention. Or, what now passes for it in the Tiger Woods Era.

Creamer's blueprint is a page out of the Woods Guide to Achieving Greatness following the philosophy that it is better to learn how to win early and often than to shoot for the stratosphere from the beginning and risk failure.

Just as Master Eldrick did, Creamer has won at various levels and in bunches. She's taken 19 national junior titles, 11 on the American Junior Golf Association Tour. And, unlike Wie, she hasn't played a PGA Tour event or made one a public priority.

Asked what she would consider a career goal, Creamer yesterday said, "I try to take it week by week, really, and try not to get too far ahead of myself. But, obviously, I want to be the No. 1 player in the world and for consecutive years."

Wie is aiming at an altogether different world, one so far unvisited by any female golfer. Her road map, for which Woods has expressed skepticism, has been to aim high from the beginning and let the birdies fall where they may.

"Growing up, I never wanted to be known as winning 50-something odd tournaments," Wie said at the Sony Open in Hawai'i last month. "I always wanted to be known as someone who did crazy stuff. I always wanted to be known as doing stuff that no one ever thought of. I just want to push myself to the limit. I want to be known as (someone) who changed the world and changed how people think."

She has made it known, for example, that while she is intent on winning on the LPGA circuit now, it is not even her main or ultimate goal. Playing — and playing well enough — on the PGA Tour to get to The Masters is.

For the moment and, likely for years to come, this shapes up as a rivalry worth watching.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.