PALM COAST, Fla. -- Stroke-play medalist Virada
Nirapathpongporn, defending champion Annie Thurman and 13-year-old
Michelle Wie won first-round matches Thursday in the U.S. Women's
Amateur Public Links Championship.
Nirapathpongporn, a rising senior at Duke, was 2 down after
three holes to 64th-seeded Carling Cho of San Juan Capistrano,
Calif., but rallied to win 3 and 2. Nirapathpongporn earned
medalist honors Wednesday by completing 36 holes at the Ocean
Hammock Golf Club in 3-under 141.
Thurman, an incoming junior at Oklahoma State and last year's
Public Links champion, defeated Courtney Mahon of Topeka, Kan., 2
and 1. Wie, of Honolulu, was 3 up at the turn over Jane Rah of
Torrance, Calif., but didn't close the match until the 17th hole,
winning 2 and 1.
Thurman said she doesn't mind Wie getting the bulk of media and
fan attention so far in the tournament. With her 300-yard drives
and ability to reach the green from almost any lie, Wie has been
attracting galleries of over 100 people, rare for a USGA event such
as the Women's Public Links.
"I came out of nowhere to win it last year,'' Thurman said.
"The lack of attention doesn't bother me.''
Wie, who has played in four LPGA events in the last two years
and has qualified for this summer's U.S. Women's Open and Women's
Amateur, will get a rematch of last year's Public Links semifinal
on Friday, with a second-round match against Hwanhee Lee. Lee
defeated Wie 3 and 2 last year at the Sunriver Resort in Oregon,
then lost 6 and 5 to Thurman in the championship match.
"It's going to be a completely different day,'' said Wie, who
is playing in the Public Links for the fourth consecutive year,
having qualified in 2000 as a 10-year-old. "Anything can happen.''
Lee, a rising junior at UNLV, defeated Jessica Castle of
Plantation, Fla., 6 and 5, in her first-round match.
Other first-round winners included defending U.S. Women's
Amateur champion Becky Lucidi of Poway, Calif., who beat Courtney
Clark of Del Rey Oaks, Calif., 6 and 5; and Southeastern Conference
champion Aimee Cho of Orlando, Fla., who cruised to a 7 and 6
victory over Lynsey Myers of Ogden, Utah.
The second and third rounds will be played Friday. The
quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Saturday and the
36-hole championship will be Sunday.