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Wie Headed Back to School

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. (AP) -- Time to put down the golf clubs and grab those schoolbooks. Michelle Wie has, like, a math test to take.
As the eighth-grader is prone to say, that's cool.
Wie is content to give women's golf a handful of tantalizing glimpses each year, at least until she's 18 and even longer if she follows through on her plans to attend college.
She's still more than six months away from her 14th birthday, holding the future of the sport in her grasp even as she pauses to watch 'S Club 7' (the televised adventures of a British pop group) or listen to a rap CD by 50 Cent.
Wie has played in two LPGA Tour events this year, more than holding her own against women two, three, even four times her age. She tied for ninth at the first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She followed up last weekend with a solid 3-under 213 at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship south of Atlanta, making the cut against a strong field.
Wie could join the LPGA Tour tomorrow and probably be one of the better players. But she has no desire to speed up the learning curve, willingly settling for the LPGA's allotment of six events each year.
Next up is the ShopRite Classic in New Jersey on the last weekend of June.
'I think six times is OK for me now,' Wie said. 'I may get sick of it if I played every week out here.'
This way, she's having the time of her life.
Already 6-feet tall, the young Hawaiian's smooth, powerful swing has drawn comparisons to Ernie Els. Big Easy, meet the Big Wiesy.
No one on the LPGA Tour hits the ball as far or as high as Wie, who didn't hesitate trying to drive the green on the 306-yard seventh hole at Eagles Landing Country Club. Everyone else laid up.
'If you didn't see who was swinging, and you saw the ball take off, you'd think a man hit it,' World Golf Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said. 'The ball is so hot coming off the face, and the flight is so high.'
Wie is definitely intrigued by the idea of following Annika Srenstam to the PGA Tour. Srenstam will play in the Bank of America Colonial next month, a groundbreaking event that may be a precursor to Wie's own career plans.
'Sure,' she said. 'Why not?'
Even now, according to her father, Wie is more comfortable teeing it up with men. She's signed to play a Canadian Tour event this summer and doesn't hide her desire to make a run at the Masters through one of the amateur qualifying events.
'She watches how the men play,' B.J. Wie said. 'She listens to the sound of the club head, the way the ball sounds. Instinctively, she tries to keep up with them. It will help Michelle get better playing with men. She plays like they play. She likes to be more aggressive. She doesn't mind going into the rough if she's 100 yards ahead of everyone else.'
Wie's coach, Gary Gilchrist, said his star pupil already has a club speed that measures up to players on the PGA Tour. She's a good 15 percent quicker than those she competed with in the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship.
'She has those long arms, and she can really coil the body,' Gilchrist said. 'The other thing that helps is her technique is very good. She has great fundamentals. When everything is in sync, she can really hit it far.'
There's still some things to work on. Wie doesn't have the time to take up a strenuous training program like golfers who play for a living. Admittedly, the youngster tired out on a bit Sunday in warm, humid temperatures.
Also, Wie needs to toughen up mentally, another natural progression as she goes through her teenage years.
'Just playing at this level will help her mentally,' Gilchrist said. 'The big thing is learning to hate bogeys and love pars.'
After the ShopRite Classic, Wie will play in the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic Aug. 14-17, the Safeway Classic Sept. 26-28 and the C.J. Nine Bridges Classic in her parents' native South Korea Oct. 16-19.
Somewhere in there, she'll find time to begin ninth grade.
'I'd like to see Michelle have as normal a childhood as she possibly can,' LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. 'When she's ready to become a member of the LPGA Tour, we'll welcome her with open arms.'
Wie comes from a family that values education and she wants to attend Stanford (where her hero, a guy named Tiger Woods , once played). Of course, those plans could change over the next 4 years.
'What if she wins an LPGA event when she's 14 or 15?' Gilchrist said. 'I believe she already has the game to win a major with a good week. If she does, what happens then? You have to have more than one game plan.'
In the meantime, plenty of events are trying to get their hands on the future of women's golf.
B.J. Wie already has gotten calls from a couple of tournament directors wanting to extend an early invitation for 2004. Clearly, she already fits in.
'They treated me, like, just an LPGA player, not a 13-year-old,' Wie said before flying back to Hawaii for that math test. 'It was really nice being at the same level as them.'
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