Wie Off to Wonderful Start

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WAILEA, Hawaii -- She met Tiger Woods and played nine holes with Jack Nicklaus. In between, Michelle Wie came within one shot of making the cut on the PGA Tour.
 
One month into 2004, the 14-year-old from Honolulu already has had a dream year.
 
And she is just getting warmed up.
 
Wie, a ninth-grader at Punahou School, turned so many heads with her 68 at the Sony Open that her father said she has received seven more offers to play on the PGA Tour.
 
'Michelle's still thinking about it and what to do with it,' B.J. Wie said.
 
Her schedule already includes several events competing against women, and her parents promise this summer won't be as hectic as 2003.
 
'Last year, we made a mistake, because she played three consecutive tournaments and she got so tired,' B.J. Wie said. 'She's still young. She gets tired easily.'
 
This year's itinerary is more spread out.
 
Wie is playing this week in the Hawaii Pearl Open, one of the premier men's golf events in the state. Last year, she shot a 5-over 77 in the final round and tied for 43rd as the youngest player and only female among 192 players, half of them from Japan.
 
After that, Wie travels to Phoenix for the Safeway International, one of the strongest fields on the LPGA Tour, followed by the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first LPGA major of the year.
 
A year ago, Wie played in the final group at the Nabisco and tied for ninth.
 
She also plans to play in the Michelob Ultra Open, Evian Masters in France and Wendy's Championship on the LPGA Tour. Wie's amateur schedule includes her defense of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Women's Amateur.
 
'I am going to have a lot of vacation this summer, not like last year when it was continuous,' she said. 'When I go to France, I'm going to have a week in Paris.
 
'So it's not going to be just all golf because I don't think I'll be able to handle that.'
 
Wie also is hopeful of making the U.S. Curtis Cup team, and she will try to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open.
 
B.J. Wie said his daughter won't be able to play on her high school golf team at the private Punahou School because her LPGA schedule will force her to miss most of the high school events.
 
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem does not see a problem if Wie accepts another exemption, as long as she shows she can play.
 
'If a tournament gives sponsor exemptions to a player or an individual who is clearly not competitive, just for publicity purposes, that's something we wouldn't care to see,' Finchem said.
 
'Michelle Wie played quite well and, at 14, if she continues to develop, I'm not sure you can make the case that she's not competitive when she misses the cut by a shot,' he said.
 
Last year, Wie played seven times on the LPGA Tour, missing the cut just once. She missed the cut on the men's Canadian and Nationwide tours, and her only victory in any event came at the Women's Public Links, where she became the youngest winner of a USGA event for adults.
 
This season, she said playing against the PGA Tour's best in the Sony has helped her game and raised her expectations.
 
'It gave me a lot of confidence that I can play with these guys,' she said. 'I think it's going to help on the LPGA because some of the (men's) par 4s are a little shorter than the (women's) par 5s.
 
'I just want to win one LPGA tournament and the USGA tournaments,' she said. 'I want to win more tournaments because last year my goal was to make the cut, this year I want to move ahead.'
 
She already has one believer in Nicklaus.
 
'She's terrific,' Nicklaus said of Wie, his playing partner in the pro-am for last weekend's Champions Skins competition in Maui. 'She's going to be something else.
 
'She doesn't swing a golf club like a woman. What I mean by that is women have a hard time with less strength and transition to put really something on it.
 
'She's strong and absolutely rips it. She has great control and command of the golf club and that's what it takes, plus already at 14, she has a wonderful wedge game and putts well.'
 
Nicklaus said he hopes Wie finishes her education and does the things she needs to do to be 'normal.'
 
'If she's a normal human being, then she's got the chance to be an exceptional athlete,' he said. 'If it goes the other way, then you don't know what's going to happen to her. But I think her parents have her feet on the ground, and I think she has her feet on the ground.'
 
Wie's classmates have realized her star power.
 
'They're just begging me not to change my autograph because they say when they're 45 and needing a job they're going to sell my stuff on eBay,' Wie said.
 
B.J. Wie tried to dispell the perception that he is an overbearing parent.
 
'Because she's highly visible on TV, it looks like she plays golf everyday, but it's not true,' he said 'Some people believe Michelle doesn't do anything outside golf and that's not true. She does all kinds of things.
 
'She makes her own decisions - where to play and what tournament she wants to go,' he said. 'I present her a list of tournaments and we schedule together.'
 
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