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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another first: Wie in European men's event

 •  Wie makes more golfing history

Associated Press

NEWPORT, R.I. Michelle Wie had a busy day. And now she has a busy summer ahead of her.

The 16-year-old phenom won a local qualifier for the U.S. Open, received another exemption to the U.S. Women's Open and accepted her first exemption to a European tour men's event yesterday.

The USGA believes she is the first woman to get through local qualifying for the U.S. Open. Wie said she will play in the June 5 36-hole sectional in Canoe Brook, N.J.

The special exemption to the U.S. Women's Open was hardly a surprise.

USGA women's tournament chairman Marcia Luigs said the exemptions are given to players who would be eligible to play in a tournament if not for some external reason. Along with Wie, a special exemption was given to Kelly Robbins, who had consecutive top-three finishes in the Women's Open but missed last year's with a back injury.

"Michelle's case was more cut-and-dried, when you looked at the numbers," Luigs said. "If she had been on the LPGA Tour, she would have been exempt. Even though she is a professional and has won enough money to have an exemption, it's not on the LPGA money list."

Although Wie is not an LPGA Tour member, she finished third in the Fields Open this year and tied for third in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, both times missing a playoff by one shot. She has earned $181,449, which would place her 16th on the money list.

"I think she clearly has enough experience to play," defending Women's Open champion Birdie Kim said. "I think even if she goes through qualifying, she'd make it through."

Luigs said exemptions are not given just to draw name players to an event.

"We don't award special exemptions to help a site sell tickets. That's never a consideration," she said. "But we're thrilled with the outcome."

Wie also will play Sept. 7 to 10 in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, her first time competing on the European tour. Wie has competed eight times against the men on five tours, making the cut for the first time May 5 in the SK Telecom Open in South Korea.

"Michelle Wie has demonstrated her outstanding golfing skills to a global audience as both an amateur and now as a professional, and we look forward to welcoming her to the Omega European Masters," said George O'Grady, executive director of the European tour.