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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 6, 2006

Busy days are ahead for state's top players

 •  Ishii seeks Senior Open title
 •  Plenty of events set for female golfers
 •  Holes in One

By Bill Kwon

Michelle Wie, who tied for third at the Women's U.S. Open, tees off today in the match-play event.

Associated Press library

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Maybe Michelle Wie is disappointed in not winning the U.S. Women's Open. A victory would have shattered the golf record of someone winning a major on either the LPGA or PGA Tour by four years.

Her fans aren't. So the 16-year-old phenom from Hawai'i shouldn't take it so hard.

After all, a top-5 finish in all four of her LPGA appearances this year isn't so shabby.

Because she's not a member of the LPGA "a freelancer," as she calls herself Wie doesn't appear on the tour's official money list, even though the $394,551 she has pocketed so far this year is for real.

To give you an idea how wowie Wie is doing while coming ever so close to her first LPGA victory, her earnings would put her 15th on the current money list. Meena Lee is No. 14 with $410,905 and she has played in 10 more tournaments than Wie.

Wie hasn't missed a cut in 19 straight LPGA events, not counting two appearances in the invitation-only Samsung World Championship, a limited-field, no-cut event. And she has made the cut in all 11 of her appearances in the women's majors.

The Wie Beat goes on as she plays in the HSBC Women's Match Play Championship that starts today in Gladstone, N.J.

Seeded No. 2 behind Annika Sorenstam, who won her third U.S. Women's Open championship in a playoff with Pat Hurst on Monday, Wie's first-round opponent today is Brazilian Candy Hannemann, who won the 2001 NCAA title while at Duke University.

Wie is making her first appearance in the event, thanks to a women's world ranking system started this year. It created quite a controversy when Wie was ranked No. 2 despite a limited playing schedule.

She earned the second seed this week with her showing in the U.S. Women's Open, bumping Lorena Ochoa, the LPGA's leading money winner, to No. 3.

By tying for third, Wie was assured of a spot in next year's U.S. Women's Open in Pine Needles, N.C. The 20 lowest scorers and those tied for 20th place are exempt the following year.

Wie, who finished 23rd in 2005 after a final-round meltdown, received a special exemption from the USGA for this year's Women's Open, which didn't sit too well with some of the LPGA members, especially Morgan Pressel.

Pressel was openly critical, telling Golf World, "Everybody else has to qualify. I've always felt that she should. I don't think she should be afraid of qualifying."

Talk about bachi.

Pressel finished 28th at this year's Open. Unless she wins her first LPGA event, or finishes on the top-40 money list this year, or is among the 35 leading money winners through next May, she'll need to go to the sectional qualifying.

She might have to eat her own words about not having to be afraid to qualify.

Me, I'm hoping the USGA will give Pressel a special exemption if she doesn't meet the eligibility requirements. Otherwise, we'll never hear the end of her whining.

Meanwhile, it's another busy week for golfers from Hawai'i.

Besides Wie and we all hope she makes it through the weekend in the unpredictable match-play format our interest will be on:

  • Dean Wilson, who's coming off a two-week break, to play in the Cialis Western Open even if Tiger and Phil are back at it again.

  • David Ishii in the 27th U.S. Senior Open at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

  • Kimberly Kim, Stephanie Kono and Tadd Fujikawa in the Rolex Tournament of Champions in Evergreen, Colo.

    What a summer it has been so far for the 14-year-old Kim and 15-year-old Fujikawa.

    Kim, a Big Island native who now resides with her mom, Arlene, and sister, Christine, in Mesa, Ariz., made the cut as the youngest player in the Women's Open after finishing runner-up in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links championship the week before.

    She hardly had time to catch up on her beauty sleep, playing 72 holes in the Women's Open, including 36 on Sunday, after playing 135 holes in the WAPL.

    Kim charmed the media at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island, according to NBC and Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing.

    Fujikawa, the youngest ever to play in the 106-year history of the U.S. Open, was one of the biggest stories at the Winged Foot Golf Club in New York even though he missed the cut.

    Kono, 16, who will be a junior at Punahou School in the fall, missed the cut in the Women's Open along with Ayaka Kaneko, 16, who will be a junior at Sacred Hearts. Kono hopes to redeem herself this week in a summer that's just beginning for her.

    Along with Kaneko, Kono will be competing next month in the U.S. Women's Amateur a USGA event that's 45 years older in history than the Women's Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore. (Also qualifying for the 106th Women's Amateur yesterday at the Waikoloa Resort's Beach Course were Tammy Surtees and Mari Chun.)

    Kim, Kono and Kaneko Hawai'i's Special Ks, if you will will be joined by Britney Choy, Miki Ueoka and Kyung Kim in the U.S. Girls' Junior in Charlotte, N.C., July 17 to 22.

    It's not just the girls, but also the guys who are grabbing our interest.

    By playing in the U.S. Open, Fujikawa is exempt for the U.S. Junior Amateur and the U.S. Amateur championships. He will be joined by Honoka'a's Sean Maekawa and T.J. Kua in the 59th Junior Amateur in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., July 17 to 22. The local qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, booked for Aug. 21 to 27 at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn., will be held Aug. 2 at Pearl Country Club.

    Maekawa, Kevin Shimomura, Lee Sakugawa and Casey Watabu will be playing in next week's U.S. Men's Amateur Public Links championship in Bremerton, Wash.

    The busy summer of golf continues without letup for Hawai'i's talented young players.