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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 9, 2006

Pulling out all stops to cover Wie

By Anne Harpham
Advertiser Senior Editor

Last Sunday, the final day of the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship, the breaking news stories of Michelle Wie's third-place finish got more hits on honoluluadvertiser.com than any other story. And traffic to the site was higher than usual for a Sunday.

It's just one more sign of the intense interest in the 16-year-old golf phenom. (That intense interest and resulting media attention also generates a lot of calls about our coverage, both pro and con.)

The ramped-up interest in any event Wie plays and the immediacy of the Internet also have changed the way we cover those tournaments.

On Sunday, we posted 10 different stories throughout the day. To do that and also have a reporter on the course following Wie means we must basically double-team golf coverage.

Advertiser sports writer Ann Miller was in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for the Kraft Nabisco to follow Wie on her first major women's tournament since turning pro. But Miller could not call back information for hole-by-hole updates on our Web site because cell phones are banned on golf courses.

So while Miller was on the course following Wie, assistant sports editor Bart Asato followed her progress on lpga.com.

It was his job to track her hole-by-hole score, write updates every three or so holes and post them online.

It may sound easy to watch the scores on the Internet and write a story. But Asato spent Sunday tracking and writing about a moving target.

As the tournament progressed, any number of variables could and did change. He was not only tracking Wie's score hole by hole, but Asato also followed a fluid scoreboard in which golfers' scores fluctuated, thereby changing Wie's standings every hole. He also was watching the live television coverage, in part for the color but also because the Internet scoring can lag by a hole or so.

Asato filed an online update once Wie finished her round.

We updated the story after Wie spoke with reporters.

In Rancho Mirage, Miller could then turn her attention to the more complete story for the next morning's print edition and a more complete story online.

Miller has been writing about Wie since the golf prodigy was 10 years old and had not yet become a household name. For Miller, a lot more has changed than just the way we get out the news.

Miller says that the toughest part of covering Wie now is that she rarely plays in Hawai'i. Wie will probably play three times here this year and the Sony Open and Fields Open already are over. Wie is planning to play in U.S. Open qualifier at Turtle Bay May 15.

"That's probably all we'll see of her for the year, unless you catch her practicing," said Miller. "That's a long way from being able to walk, basically alone, with her at Jennie K. or State Stroke Play, or the Hawaii State Open."

Last Sunday at the Kraft Nabisco, there were so many people on the course watching Wie that Miller said she would have been able to see more if she had watched the tournament on television. She didn't take the easy way out, but toughed it out on the course so she could have a sense of the atmosphere.

"It was so tense out there. It wasn't as if everyone was rooting for Michelle, but they couldn't take their eyes off her. It's not even as if they are waiting for her to make history by winning. They knew they were watching history even if she didn't."

Reach Anne Harpham at aharpham@honoluluadvertiser.com.