Originally created 05/17/02

Amateur endures 'long day'



Michelle Wie plopped herself on the fringe behind the 18th green to grab a quick breather with her dad and caddie, BJ.

Even an energetic 12-year-old golfer playing in an LPGA Tour event gets tired.

"It was a long day," Wie said as dusk fell early Thursday evening after the opening round of the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship. "Literally and figuratively."

Literally in the sense that Wie and her group took nearly six hours to complete their round.

Figuratively in the sense that Wie faced an array of challenges Thursday, as the seventh-grader from Hawaii battled not only a difficult Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club course, but also her nerves and a swing she described as being "really bad today."

"I kept telling myself to keep on grinding," said Wie, who shot 9-over-par 81. "The greens are way different than the ones I play. The speed isn't that bad, but the slopes are way different. (Every course I play) is kind of flat and not this hard."

In February, Wie made her debut in an LPGA Tour event during the season-opening Takefuji Classic in Hawaii. She made it in on the Monday qualifier, becoming the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event, and finished 6-over for two rounds and missed the cut.

Wie, whose parents are Korean, received a sponsor exemption to play this week. From the difficulty of the course, to the Southern heat, to the unfamiliarity of being half a world away from home, her second pro event already has been an eye-opener.

"I was OK on the first hole after the first shot," Wie said of her butterflies. "My legs were pretty shaky for about 10 minutes, but I was OK after that. I was spilling everything today, spilling on my pants and dropping water bottles."

The early jitters cost Wie a pair of birdies on the first two holes, and led to bogey at the par-3 third hole and double bogey at the par-4 fourth. By the time she arrived at the 16th tee, Wie was at 11-over with five bogeys and three double bogeys on her scorecard.

"I double bogeyed a lot today," she said.

But the 5-foot-10 wunderkind finished strong with birdies on Nos. 16-17 and a nice par save at 18.

"I just wish I started like that," she said with a braces-covered grin.

With little chance of making the cut today, Wie will turn her focus toward next week's U.S. Women's Open qualifier at The Standard Club in Duluth, Ga. She'll end up missing two weeks of classes back home in Honolulu, but at least she doesn't have final exams to worry about.

"We don't have finals yet, so we're lucky," said Wie, whose father is a University of Hawaii professor. "Not until ninth grade."

The other amateur in the field, 15-year-old Shinobu Moromizato of Japan, fared a bit better, shooting a 5-over 77. Together, Moromizato and Wie made history, becoming the first two players under 16 to compete in an LPGA event.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.