Skip to main content

Wie Gets Invitation to First LPGA Major

Michelle Wie received an invitation Wednesday from the Kraft Nabisco Championship to play in the LPGA Tour's first major after the 13-year-old impressed PGA Tour pros with her fluid swing and 300-yard drives.
The Nabisco has a tradition of inviting amateurs, and a 13-year-old teeing it up with Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and the best women in golf is nothing new.
Three years ago, twins Aree and Naree Wongluekiet played the Nabisco at 13, and Aree tied for 10th while playing in the final group Sunday.
``Hopefully, we can beat that record,'' said Michelle's father, B.J. Wie.
Wie, who is from Hawaii, played in three LPGA Tour events last year and missed the cut each time. She reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women's Public Links Amateur at age 12, the youngest semifinalist in any women's amateur event run by the U.S. Golf Association.
But what sold the Nabisco on her were the stories from Hawaii last month.
Wie tried to qualify Monday for the Sony Open. Playing the back tees at Pearl Country Club, she shot a 1-over 73 and tied for 47th against 96 men.
``There's a lot of guys who got kicked around by a 13-year-old girl,'' said Andy Miller, who won the qualifier with a 65.
She also played a Pro-Junior Amateur event the day before the Sony Open, and several players stopped on the range to watch her swing.
``You watch her swing and say, 'That's normal.' Then you realize that she's only 13 and that's ... that's unbelievable,'' Vijay Singh said.
That's what led Nabisco tournament director Terry Wilcox to give her an exemption, along with five other amateurs. The Wongluekiets also will be in the field at the Nabisco, to be played March 27-30 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
``I had considered Michelle earlier, but I had the opportunity to read more and more about her,'' Wilcox said. ``I was so impressed about all the things I heard from tour players. I thought about me in awe watching Fred Couples. And to think he was awed watching her was so unusual.''
Couples also watched her play in Hawaii.
``When you see her hit a golf ball ... there's nothing that prepares you for it,'' he told Golf World magazine. ``It's just the scariest thing you've ever seen.''
Wie started playing at age 4, and she shot a 64 at Olomana Golf Links when she was 10. The next year, she won the Jennie K. ' the most prestigious women's event in Hawaii ' by nine strokes.
Two months ago at the Hawaii State Open, she played from a shorter set of tees (like Suzy Whaley in Connecticut) and beat every man in the field. In the women's division, she beat former LPGA player Cindy Flom by 13 shots.
Wilcox said the Nabisco tries to select amateurs who have played well on a national level, and ``her recent successes in Hawaii were enough to get my attention.''
B.J. Wie, a professor of transportation at the University of Hawaii, said the timing couldn't be better for his eighth-grade daughter.
``She's on spring break that week,'' he said.