Wie ready to kick off another worldwide tour
|||Aloha Section PGA junior tourneys set|
|||Holes in one|
By Bill Kwon
Special to The Advertiser
By Bill Kwon
Ever since she was 10 years old, Michelle Wie has been taking her precocious golf game on a summer tour of the Mainland.
She has made quite an impression since her first foray in 2000, becoming the youngest player to compete in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links championship — a record that still stands.
Three years later she set — and still holds — another record for that event as its youngest champion and also the youngest to win an adult USGA event.
Wie has since added other accomplishments on her summer swings with her golf clubs, including an appearance in the John Deere Classic, another PGA Tour event besides the hometown Sony Open in Hawai'i, and events in England and France.
More notably, last year she became the first female to qualify for the U.S. Men's Amateur Public Links, losing in the third round to eventual champion Clay Ogden.
Well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Wie will leave Sunday after finishing her junior-year exams at Punahou School for what will be her most ambitious summer journey yet. It will be a bodacious — a term combining bold and audacious — schedule and it will begin with her trying to become the first female to play in the U.S. Open — the men's U.S. Open.
The 16-year-old phenom took medalist honors at the local U.S. Open qualifying at the Turtle Bay Resort's Palmer Course to become the first female to reach the sectionals.
So on June 5 in the sectional qualifying at the Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., we will find out if Wie will become the first golfer to play in both of the U.S. Open championships for men and women.
What a mind-boggling feat that would be. Still, nothing what Wie does should surprise us anymore. If anyone can pull it off, it would be Wie.
The 36-hole sectional qualifying will be a good tuneup for Wie's second summer stop — the LPGA McDonald's Championship in Maryland.
If she qualifies for the men's U.S. Open, Wie's next stop is at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., for the U.S. Open, June 15 to 18. It was at Winged Foot where Hawai'i's Jackie Pung was disqualified in the 1957 U.S. Women's Open for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Otherwise, it's an off week for Wie, whose schedule then really kicks into high gear during the rest of the summer.
Starting with the U.S. Women's Open in Newport, R.I., June 29 to July 2, Wie will be playing five tournaments in six weeks — the HSBC World Match Play Championship, the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic, Evian Masters and the Weetabix Women's British Open.
A far cry from the once-a-month tournament schedule she has been playing until now.
Wie will take a break from golf after the Women's British Open, doing photo shoots and visiting cousins on her mother Bo's side of the family in Los Angeles before returning home Aug. 20.
Wie also received a sponsor's exemption to the Omega European Masters, one of the major stops on the European Tour.
That Omega delivered shouldn't have been a surprise. Wie signed an endorsement contract with Omega earlier this year. You just knew that the maker of fine Swiss watches would insist that its bright, new ambassador be invited to a golf tournament it sponsors.
"It's a good decision on their part," said Michelle's father, BJ Wie, who added that he didn't really think about a tournament exemption when the Omega endorsement was a done deal in February.
"But it's a natural, logical step," BJ said about the exemption that will give Wie the distinction of being the first female to play in a European Tour event in Europe. Laura Davies played in the 2004 ANZ Tournament, which was held in Australia.
Wie is one of Omega's 12 celebrity ambassadors, joining a group that includes actress Nicole Kidman and golfers Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia.
Guess who's the defending champion in this year's Omega European Masters? Garcia.
Els won the event in 2003. Both are expected to be in the field for one of the longest-running events on the European Tour. Especially since the Ryder Cup will be played in Ireland two weeks later.
"Michelle is looking forward to playing with Ernie Els in Europe," BJ said. "We hear it is a great golf course. It is a ski resort with a great shopping area."
The event will be played in September, two weeks after Wie begins her senior year at Punahou.
So she will not only will be wearing a Swiss watch and playing in the Swiss Alps, she could also open a Swiss bank account while she's at it.
WIE'S NEXT EVENTS
June 5: U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying (Trying to become the first woman to qualify for the men's U.S. Open).
June 8-11: McDonald's LPGA Championship (One of the four majors on the women's tour. She finished tied for third in this year's first major, Kraft Nabisco).