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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 15, 2005

Hootie may soon meet his match

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist


Now that Michelle Wie has already won three matches in this 80th U.S. Amateur Public Links to reach the quarterfinals and is halfway to her goal of The Masters, then that figuratively puts her in ...

Knoxville, Tenn.?

With every hole she takes, every win she adds in Lebanon, Ohio, Wie is moving perceptibly closer toward Augusta, Ga., and history.

If Wie is thinking about it — and she admitted as much in a post-match press conference — it also cannot have escaped the notice of Hootie Johnson and those who have resolutely thrown up an objection to permitting women to be members of Augusta National's hallowed grounds.

Holding off Martha Burk was one thing; this 15-year-old from Hawai'i is quickly becoming a whole different ballgame. The gates could be shut on Burk and her placard-waving supporters from the National Conference of Women's Organizations. But Wie, driver in hand, is threatening to come marching right up Magnolia Lane past the dogwood and azalea as if she belongs. Which, should she manage to win the Publinx, tradition says she would since which every champion in her lifetime — from 1989 — has received an invitation.

Indeed, Hootie is on record as saying, "We'd be pleased to have Michelle play in The Masters tournament if she qualifies." Of course, it was more than a year ago during his "State of the Masters" address and another Burk siege when he said it in a tone of such magnanimity that you got the distinct feeling he might have been itching to add:

Yeah, and that'll probably happen right after that Burk woman hands out a green jacket. Good luck, sweetie, they'll be having match play with snowballs first in you-know-where.

But after Wie became the first female to qualify for the Publinx and then proceeded to survive the medal rounds and defeat three college players in head-to-head play, the notion suddenly no longer seems so far fetched.

Ask her victims, those who have come to marvel at not only her poise but some of the shots that have taken them down. After watching Wie rip a 3-iron approach shot from 220 yards to within 12 feet to position a birdie, Jim Renner, who was beaten 3 and 1, told reporters, "I'd like to see another 15-year-old do that. That's not a shot a typical 15-year-old makes from that distance. There's not that many guys out there in this tournament who can hit that shot."

With Wie this summer, seeing has been disbelieving.

Admittedly, there is still much golf to be played while the competition gets stiffer and the challenge steeper with all that is now on the line. But the way Wie is going about it, no one should be surprised if, come tomorrow's finale, she is knocking on the gates of Augusta National.