Wie will play in hometown PGA Tour event

Originally Published: November 13, 2003
Associated Press

HONOLULU -- Michelle Wie accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Sony Open in January, putting her in position to become the youngest female to play in a PGA Tour event.

''It's a dream to play in the Sony Open,'' the 14-year-old Wie said Thursday. ''I just hope I can play good and show what I can do.''

In an unusual move, Gov. Linda Lingle requested that tournament officials allow Wie to play in her hometown event, the PGA Tour's first full-field tournament of the year.

The governor said at a news conference with Wie that the teen-age golfer's appearance at the golf event will bring added exposure to the Sony Open and Hawaii.

''She has played this sport at the highest level under tremendous pressure and unbelievable media attention and scrutiny that anyone of any age would've had a difficult time dealing with it,'' Lingle said. ''And she's done it with such grace.''

Wie failed in two previous attempts to qualify for the tournament. She shot a 73 last year in Monday qualifying, and had an 84 in 2000. This year, she won't have to play in the qualifier.

Wie has played in nine professional tournaments this year. She competed against the men in the Nationwide Tour's Boise Open and the Canadian Tour's Bay Mills Open Players Championship, missing the cut in both events.

But Wie thinks she has a pretty good shot at the Sony on her home island.

''I live in Hawaii and I'm used to the grass,'' she said. ''When they come here, I hear they have a lot of trouble playing in the Bermuda grass.''

Wie said she was thankful for the sponsor's exemption because it meant she didn't have to play another Monday qualifier.

''I like the easy route,'' she said. ''I know how hard it can be. It's a one-day deal and anything can happen.''

Wie received one of four unrestricted sponsor's exemptions, which will most likely result in one less Japanese pro playing in the event.

In year's past, Sony granted one unrestricted exemption to the winner of the Aloha Section PGA's Governor's Cup and the other three usually went to Japanese pros.

Two weeks ago, Wie finished last in a field of 69 players in the CJ Nine Bridges Classic in South Korea, her seventh and final LPGA Tour event of the year.

Her best finish was at the LPGA Tour's first major, where she finished ninth in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March. She was paired in the major's final group with Annika Sorenstam and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc.

Among her other accomplishments this year, Wie became the youngest player to win a USGA title for adults in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and made the cut at the U.S. Women's Open.

The 6-foot golf prodigy whose 300-yard drives attract huge galleries, turned 14 last month and recently began her freshman year at Punahou School.

If golf doesn't pan out, Wie might consider other sports.

The coach of an American Samoa men's basketball team, one of three teams being recognized by Lingle on Thursday, said he would be happy to have her suit up.

''I'm not really good at basketball,'' Wie said. ''I like golf because you can actually walk.''

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press