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Wie Stays Cool Under Spotlight

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. (AP) -- After some practice putting on the 18th green at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Michelle Wie was whisked away for yet another television interview.
Then there were countless autographs to sign before she could get back to the task at hand. Practice.
Such is the life of golf's newest star as she prepares for the U.S. Women's Open that starts Thursday.
'She enjoys the attention,' said her father and caddie, B.J. Wie. 'It makes her work harder.'
Sizable galleries followed the 13-year-old phenom at Wednesday's final practice round on the Witch Hollow course. She drew polite applause for a well-placed uphill shot in a deep valley on 18.
Standing almost 6-feet tall, the lanky native of Honolulu captured the public's attention with Tiger Woods-like 300-yard drives and has been hailed as the future of women's golf.
She burst on the scene earlier this year when she placed ninth in the Nabisco Classic, her first-ever LPGA major. Then she proved she wasn't only about power when became the youngest player to win an adult USGA championship in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links title two weeks ago.
And there's a lot more attention to come. Wie, who has played in three LPGA events this year as an amateur, is scheduled to play against men in the Canadian Tour's Bay Mills Open Players' Championship in August. Then she'll play on the men's Nationwide Tour with a sponsor's exemption in the Albertson's Open Sept. 18-21.
Her goal? The Masters, of course.
When confronted with naysayers who say she's doing too much too soon, the confident teenager was defiant.
'I just think to myself, `How do they know?'' she said. 'I'm still young. I'm fresh. I can handle it.'
While Wie probably has the highest profile of the 14 teenagers playing in the Open, she's not even the youngest. That honor goes to Sydney Burlison of California, who is nine days Wie's junior.
'I could be a mother to all of them,' marveled 43-year-old Juli Inkster, who beat Annika Sorenstam by two strokes to win last year's Open at Prairie Dunes County Club in Hutchinson, Kan.
Inkster said Wie's presence has given her more fire to play well.
'She's impressive, the way she hits the ball,' Inkster said. 'But I still feel that I can come out and compete and win. But it does get me going.'
But two-time Open winner Karrie Webb expressed concern that perhaps Wie was coming along too fast.
'I just hope that she's doing what she's doing right now because she wants to do it, I guess. I just hope she doesn't get to a time in her life, like someone like (tennis star) Jennifer Capriati, when she doesn't want to do it anymore, because that would be a shame,' Webb said.
B.J. Wie said his daughter hates the word 'burnout.'
'I guess I don't really fear it,' she said. 'I guess if I do get burned out, I'll go to college, and at least I have a chance to do something else.'
Giggling when microphone troubles made it difficult to hear questions, Wie was graceful Wednesday under the scrutiny of the media. At one point she was asked if she had ever seen the U.S. Women's Open, and she simply smiled rather than answer.
Wie was accompanied during her practice round Wednesday by her parents and her coach, in a group with LPGA Tour pros Hilary Lunke and Stephanie Louden.
The group parted ways after 11 holes. 'Thank you so much,' Louden said, giving Wie a hug. 'Good luck to you.'
Wie played on, her father gently offering suggestions in Korean.
'She's doing great,' B.J. Wie said. 'She has to sign a lot of autographs but that's OK. We are just trying to learn the course.'
After the Open, Wie plans to take some time off in California. Then it's on to the U.S. Girls Junior in Fairfield, Conn., on July 21, and the U.S. Women's Amateur at Philadelphia Country Club in August.
Wie travels to Ohio next for the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic on the LPGA Tour, followed by a five-hour drive to Michigan for the Canadian Tour event against the men.
Wie would like to play in the men's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship as early as next year, with an eye toward her goal of playing in the Masters.
'I really want to play in the Masters and on the PGA Tour,' she said, 'because I think that will take me to the highest level.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the U.S. Women's Open
  • Full-field scores from the U.S. Women's Open
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