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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Unwavering Wie plans for next year

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

 •  Wie shines, even in defeat

Michelle Wie was congratulated by fans despite failing to advance in U.S. Open qualifying. "I'm definitely going to try again next year," the undaunted Wie promised during a televised news conference.

TYSON TRISH | Daily Record (N.J.)

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Michelle Wie was unable to bring 106 years of golfing history to its storied knees yesterday.

But neither could the burden of becoming the first female to play in the U.S. Open bring Wie to hers.

Wie's eyes appeared moist and her cheeks reddened after her 36-hole total of 1-over-par 143 at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., fell five shots short of a qualifying position in the sectional.

But the 16-year-old's resolve was clearly unbent and her will resolute as she vowed to come back again next year.

"I'm definitely going to try again next year," the undaunted Wie promised during a nationally televised news conference.

Defiance?

No, just Wie being Wie.

For anybody else, it might have been easy to walk away disillusioned by a short game that left Wie up the brook without a putter.

It would have been understandable to be shattered after shooting a 2-under 68 on the South Course and finishing 3-over on the last six holes for a 75 before a crowd six-deep and so overflowing the course gates were shut to spectators halfway through.

Yet, even after the disappointing ending to her nine-hour day, there would be no doubts of her mission and certainly no succumbing to the calls to stick with playing her peers (i.e. the women's tour) as critics have repeatedly counseled. No hesitation by Wie about adhering to the beyond-ambitious game plan. And enough people with microphones tried to replant the idea in her head if not the words in her mouth yesterday, too.

If there is one thing we know or should know about the precocious Wie by now, it is that she won't be taking the easy way out anytime soon. Nor the conventional. There is easy and predictable. Then there is Wiesy, as Tom Lehman nicknamed her, and the two trod disparate paths.

It is what led Wie to take this shot at U.S. Open qualifying in the first place, something not even attempted by the late Babe Zaharias Didrickson, the last woman to make a PGA Tour cut in 1945.

It is part of what prompted Wie to pick a sectional that had nearly 50 proven PGA pros, including 1998 player of the year Mark Brooks, in the 152-man and one girl field.

"I don't know if it is better or not to play against my peers, but this is what I want to do. And I want to do what I want to do," Wie said with teenage simplicity on The Golf Channel.

It is an approach that has served her well. For when you are trailblazing where no female golfer has gone before, unshakable belief is one of the best things you have in your bag. Along with an able putter, of course.

Apart from her burgeoning game and poise beyond her years, steadfast confidence is one of the things all but the most shrill naysayers have to admire about the high school senior-to-be.

And it looks as if even a few of those are turning around. Golf Channel commentator Frank Nobilo, a six-time U.S. Open participant and previous Wie doubter, said he'd give her an "A-minus" for the day.

NBC commentator Mark Rolfing called the whole experience, "a benchmark day for her. I thought she played great. She is maturing with the whole thing, and what happened out there today is going to benefit her not only in the long run but the short term. Michelle will be stronger."

The dream of playing Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y. , home of the U.S. Open, will have to wait for Wie. Its history remained intact yesterday, but so did the resolve of its unrelenting challenger.

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