Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Getting to know: Michelle Wie

By Jeff D'Alessio
Florida Today

Michelle Wie follows her drive off the 10th tee during her semifinal match against Aimee Cho in the 27th U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship at Ocean Hammock Golf Club in Palm Coast, Fla., Saturday.
(AP photo)
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Golf's next big thing rips it 300 yards off the tee, towers over the competition, dreams of one day playing in the Masters and likes to shop for "cute tank tops with really cute writing."

Meet Michelle Wie, the nearly 6-foot, 13-year-old Hawaiian sensation who on Sunday became the youngest U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion (by four years) and has been called the women's game's version of Tiger Woods.

Also the youngest player to qualify for a LPGA event, Wie tied for ninth place this year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Following in the footsteps of Annika Sorenstam, she'll play against the men at the Boise (Idaho) Open, a September event on the PGA's Nationwide Tour.

Question: What do your buddies back home think of all your fame and fortune?

Answer: They think it's pretty cool. But they're kind of mad at me. They couldn't watch TV all spring break because their dads were watching me at the Nabisco.

Q: When you were watching Annika Sorenstam play against the boys a few weeks ago, what was going through your mind?

A: I hoped she would go play great - and she did.

Q: Were you thinking about your own situation at all?

A: Yeah. It was kind of like a sneak preview. I kind of know it's going to happen to me, but I think it's going to be a little bit less since she's already done it.

Q: What's your long-term plan? Play on the PGA Tour?

A: Yeah, play on the PGA Tour full time. And play in the Masters.

Q: Have you played against the boys in other sports?

A: I was the only girl on the baseball team when I was 6.

Q: Were you any good?

A: I was an all-star for a hitter.

Q: Wow. So why'd you give it up?

A: I got hit in the face. I was playing outfield, but I'm a really bad catcher.

Q: A lot's been made about your strength. How far can you hit it?

A: Right now, I average around 280, 290 (yards). But if it's downwind and I hit it good, sometimes I hit it 320, 315, 300.

Q: Where do you get that power from?

A: I have long arms, so my arc is better. And I don't really try to hit it hard. I just go with my swing. That makes the ball go farther.

Q: How far ultimately do you think you'll be able to hit it?

A: I'm not going to grow anymore. If I weight train and lift weights, maybe I'll go farther, maybe I won't.

Q: How much time a day do you devote to playing golf?

A: I practice three to four hours on weekdays, and I practice about five hours on the weekends.

Q: Your dad has said that you "love" the media attention. True, or is that overstating it a little?

A: Sometimes I just want to go home because after a round I get tired. But most of the time it's pretty fun. I don't mind the cameras and the microphones. I just talk to the person.

Q: What is it about Tiger Woods that you admire most?

A: He's really good at everything. And he makes a lot of putts when he's under pressure. He's just a really good player.

Q: What's in your CD player these days?

A: Christina Aguilera, "Stripped."

Q: What's your favorite TV show?

A: I liked "Smallville." And anything on The Disney Channel.

Q: Favorite place to shop?

A: Hmmm. I don't know. Let's see. Just anywhere that has good clothes.

Q: What kind do you like?

A: I like cute tank tops with really cute writing on it.

Q: Jane Blalock, an LPGA Senior Tour president and a former LPGA star who now runs her own golf marketing company, predicted in Business Week that you could make $50 million in five years in endorsement deals right now. What do you think of that?

A: That'd be cool.

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