Even Wie knows that 'anything can happen'
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.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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