Wednesday, February 12, 2003

13-year-old invited to another LPGA event

The Associated Press

HONOLULU - Michelle Wie has a busy golfing schedule ahead of her, considering she's only 13 and isn't eligible for her school's varsity team yet. Wie received a sponsor's exemption Tuesday to play in the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in April. It's one of three LPGA Tour event invitations she has received and accepted this season.

The eighth-grader from Honolulu, who stands nearly 6 feet tall and drives up to 300 yards, already has received sponsor's invitations to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship next month in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and the ShopRite Classic in June in Galloway, N.J.

"It'll be fun," Wie said. "I like seeing the good golfers and playing on challenging golf courses, so it'll help me to play better in the future."

Non-tour members are allowed to play in a maximum of four events per year. As an amateur, Wie isn't eligible to receive any purse money. Her father, B.J. Wie, said the experience to play with the world's best woman golfers is worth more than money.

Wie attends the Punahou School, which has students in grades through 12. But she can't play for the varsity team until the ninth grade. She'll will miss a week of classes to play in the Chick-fil-A in Stockbridge, Ga., a tournament hosted by Nancy Lopez. The other events fall during her vacation.

"Michelle has never met Nancy Lopez, so this is will be an opportunity to meet Nancy and play in her tournament," said her father, a professor at the University of Hawaii.

Last year, at the age of 12, Wie played in three LPGA Tour events and missed the cut each time.

"Once I make the cut, I'll make harder goals for myself," she said.

Wie might have to adjust to playing competitively against women again, since she's only played against men this year.

On Sunday, she shot a 5-over 77 in the final round of the Hawaii Pearl Open, finishing with an 8-over 224 to tie for 43rd place. She was the only female player - and the youngest overall - in a field of 192, half of which are top Japanese pro and amateur golfers.

Last month, Wie tried to qualify for the PGA Tour's Sony Open. She shot a 1-over 73 from the back tees and tied for 47th playing against 96 men.

Wie last played in a junior tournament in December, winning the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association's Tournament of Champions.

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