Wie makes more golfing history
|Michelle Wie photo gallery|
|||Another first: Wie in European men's event|
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
KAHUKU — Span the golf globe, push the limits of imagination. Michelle Wie can apparently do it all. In one day.
Wie's excellent golf adventure continued yesterday. The Punahou junior became the first female to advance to U.S. Open sectional qualifying, according to U.S. Golf Association officials.
Wie shot an even-par 72 at Turtle Bay's Palmer Course to earn medalist honors in a field of 40 — 38 men, the Big Wiesy and 15-year-old Carmen Bandea from Atlanta.
Mid-Pacific pro Joe Phengsavath also advanced to sectionals with a 73. Moanalua freshman Tadd Fujikawa sank a 50-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to beat out Regan Lee and Chan Kim for the final slot.
Bandea shot 80, one better than yesterday's average as the Palmer Course played havoc with the games of some of Hawai'i's best golfers, along with entrants from Canada, Japan, French Polynesia and six other states.
Wie, who turned pro a week before her 16th birthday last October and has collected several million dollars since, called her accomplishment "huge." It is just the latest in a list of firsts that began at age 10, when she became the youngest to qualify for a USGA "adult" event.
The short list includes domination of Hawai'i women's golf, youngest to make an LPGA cut and win a USGA "adult" event by age 13 and youngest to play a PGA Tour event and shoot in the 60s by 14. Last year she became the first female to qualify for an "adult male" USGA championship, reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
Then came yesterday, when Wie made history the old fashioned way — "I just grinded" — and added two prestigious events to her 2006 schedule. She received a second special exemption to play in the U.S. Women's Open and announced she will play in a European tour event in Switzerland in September.
"I think it's awesome," Wie said of her multi-tour, globetrotting schedule. "It's always been what I've wanted to do."
She "grinded" to three birdies and two bogeys on the front at Turtle Bay, one-putting four straight holes and draining an 18-footer for birdie on the ninth to make the turn at 1-under par.
Wie bogeyed the 10th, then birdied the 14th from 3 feet and missed a 4-foot par putt on No. 15. With a gallery of about 50, including seven cameramen, she followed all but her first birdie with bogey.
Wie found that "very frustrating," but eased her pain by needing just 28 putts. She also averted disaster by centimeters on the next-to-last hole.
Wie found her ball after yanking her drive into the left hazard — "I knew it was gone because I hit it way too good." She contemplated taking an unplayable lie, but decided that "could lead to a really ugly hole."
Instead, she punched the ball backwards, through a tiny window over a slope and under a tree, into the fairway, then hit her 7-iron to 5 feet for an all-prodigy par.
Phengsavath finished early, ecstatic with his ball-striking and disgusted with his putting. He never thought 73 would hold up, but it did, with one well-known historical exception.
"To me, I've played with Michelle so many times she's just another competitor with all of us," Phengsavath said. "I don't see her as that million-dollar person, just an ordinary person, still the same Michelle. If she wants to qualify, go for it."
Michelle Wie will play in the June 5 sectional at Canoebrook Country Club in New Jersey. She plays the McDonald's LPGA Championship later that week, just outside Baltimore. Generally, a section gets one U.S. Open qualifier for every 13 entrants.
There will also be a sectional June 5 at Po'ipu Bay. There are 14 sectionals across the country and in Japan and England. This year's U.S. Open is June 15 to 18 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N,Y.
Kapalua's David Havens shot 4-under 66, with a hole-in-one, at Wailea's Gold Course Saturday to earn medalist honors at Maui's U.S. Open local qualifier. Darren Summers (67) and Brian Sasada (69) also advanced to sectionals.
Reach Ann Miller at email@example.com.