The event kicks off the official 2009 LPGA season. And womens professional golf is looking for Wie, among a select few, to help generate the kind of buzz it needs to counteract the ill effects of a down economy and the off-season loss to retirement of former world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam.
Wie, who earned her playing privileges at LPGA Q-School late last year, is still enrolled at Stanford University. But her agent, Jill Smoller, confirmed that Wie has been in Hawaii since last Friday.
The venue for the 54-hole event that begins Thursday on the island of Oahu is the Palmer Course at the Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku. Michelle knows that course like the back of her hand, said Leadbetter, reached at his Orlando home. Wie grew up in Hawaii and attended the same high school (Punahou) as President Barack Obama.
Leadbetter will not travel to Hawaii for the event but he has been in touch with Wie on a regular basis. He said Wie sends him video clips, via the internet, of her swing every 10 days. And, he said, her caddie at Turtle Bay will be Tim Vickers, an instructor at his Florida golf academy.
Smoller characterized Wies state of mind leading up the event as very focused, but in a low key way.
One of Wies main goals in the early part of the season is to qualify for the seasons first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship April 2-5. To that end Wie needs to either win one of the three events shes planning to play before Kraft or be into the top 30 on the LPGA money list after the Phoenix LPGA International, one week prior to Kraft Nabisco.
According to LPGA officials, Wie can not qualify for Kraft Nabisco through any special or sponsors exemptions.
After this week the LPGA moves to Thailand and Singapore before returning to North America for the MasterCard Classic Honoring Alejo Peralta in Mexico. Then its on to Phoenix.
Meanwhile, Smoller said Wie will take part Tuesday night in the annual Turtle Race at Turtle Bay. Its a tradition in which six players are given a turtle which they enter in a race that takes place at the pairings party for the pro-am. Bets are placed and the proceeds go to charity.
The fervent hope in the Wie camp is that she will get off to a faster start this season than any of the entrants in the turtle race.
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