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Wie fires opening 2-over 74 in Michigan

8/21/2003

BRIMLEY, Mich. -- Michelle Wie felt she had nothing to
prove, then went ahead and did it anyway.

Wie, the 13-year-old sensation widely felt to be the future of
women's golf, showed she can play with the men in Thursday's first
round of the Bay Mills Open Players Championship, the final event
of the Canadian Tour season.

The long-hitting Wie, whose drives were frequently over 300
yards at Wild Bluff Golf Course, had a birdie and three bogeys in a
round of 2-over 74. That put her seven shots behind Michael Harris,
the leader when play was delayed for the second time by a
thunderstorm sweeping across the Upper Peninsula.

Only 24 of 150 players had finished when play resumed at 5 p.m.
and many had yet to even tee off. That meant some would have to
finish their first round early Friday, before starting the second
round.

Except for a few close friends, however, hardly anyone cared
about Harris -- a former University of Michigan star seeking his
first win as a professional -- and the others in the field. Wie was
who the fans came to see. And she lived up to her billing.

''I wasn't nervous at all,'' said Wie, whom Tom Lehman once
dubbed ''Big Wiesy'' because her swing reminds so many people of
Ernie Els. ''I was too sleepy to be nervous on the first hole.
Besides, I've been playing with guys for quite a while now.''

Not in a setting like this.

Wie is the third female to compete in a professional men's golf
event this summer. Annika Sorenstam and Suzy Whaley failed to make
the cut in their PGA Tour attempts earlier this season. There is a
chance that Wie will as the cut in this event last year was 5 over.

''I didn't play great,'' Wie said. ''I made two stupid bogeys,
and I had two birdie putts I should have made. I think I could have
been under par today.''

Heavy wind was a factor when she teed off at 8:10 a.m., with two
other amateurs: Mike Mezei of Lethbridge, Alberta, and Michigan
Amateur champion Colby Beckstrom.

''If I had just come here from Hawaii, the wind would have been
no problem,'' said Wie, who starts the ninth grade at Punahou High
School when she returns to Honolulu next week. ''But, I've been
over here, playing in almost perfect conditions for nearly three
months now.''

Wie's approach to the third hole rolled off the back of the
green, the ball resting against the collar of the second cut. Her
4-foot putt to save par lipped out. She bogeyed No. 8 when her tee
shot on the par-3 took a crazy bounce into the right rough and her
chip sailed 25 feet past the pin.

But she almost eagled the 545-yard 9th when her 70-foot putt
from the first cut of greenside rough rolled 4 feet left of the
cup. That birdie enabled Wie to make the turn at 1-over 37.

The horn sounded for the first thunderstorm as Wie was lining up
a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 10. When play resumed, 1 hour and 55
minutes later, she missed that putt and settled for a par. On the
11th, an official using a Jugs gun timed Wie's ball speed off her
driver at 148 mph, but she missed another birdie attempt, this time
from 6 feet.

''Before the rain delay, I thought I putted well,'' said Wie,
who earlier this summer became the youngest player to win a USGA
title for adults at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.
''Afterward, nothing would go in.''

Three uninspired shots on the par-4 12th left her 15 feet from
the cup and she missed again for her final bogey of the day.

''She's putting too much pressure on herself,'' said her swing
coach, Gary Gilchrist.

Her mother, Bo, gave Wie a banana and she settled into a steady
string of pars the rest of the way, including a nice save after
hitting her second shot into some weeds on the bank of a creek
crossing the 17th fairway. For the record, she beat both playing
partners by a stroke.

''She's a fantastic player,'' Mezei said. ''Her short game is
exceptional. She just missed a few putts. But, give her a few years
and she's going to be a super player.

''She's pretty neat to watch.''

B.J. Wie, the teenager's father and caddie this week, liked the idea of
her playing with two other amateurs.

''They are both nice kids,'' the elder Wie said. ''After her
bogeys, the both gave her comfort. They had nice attitudes.''

The field will be cut to the low 60 and ties for the final two
rounds. Wie, playing on a sponsor's exemption, is likely to be
paired with professionals if she qualifies.