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12-year-old seeks par in LPGA debut

 
Published March 1, 2002|Updated Sept. 2, 2005

With 12-year-old Michelle Wie fighting to break par in her first LPGA Tour event, Catriona Matthew and Liselotte Neumann shot 6-under 64s on Thursday to share the early first-round lead in the season-opening Takefuji Classic.

Wie, the 5-foot-10 seventh-grader from Honolulu, was 1-over after 11 holes on the Waikoloa Beach Resort course.

Wie, who began play on the 10th tee, birdied No. 11 but dropped three strokes with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 14-16. After three consecutive pars, she birdied No. 2 to get to 1-over.

Annika Sorenstam, coming off a playoff victory over Karrie Webb last week in the Australian Ladies Masters, was 5-under through 16 holes. Defending champion Lorie Kane also was 5-under through 16, and Michele Redman and Mi Hyun Kim were 5-under through 17.

But most of the attention was on Wie, the youngest player to earn a spot in an LPGA Tour event through a Monday qualifier.

If she makes the cut in the 54-hole tournament, she will become the youngest to do so at an LPGA Tour event since Aree Wongluekiet in the 2000 Nabisco Championship at age 13.

Her coach and caddie, Casey Nakama, said she is playing amazingly calm for her age because she doesn't know the magnitude of what she has accomplished so far.

"She feels no pressure," he said. "If she misses the cut, she goes back to school."

The players said they enjoyed having Wie in the field.

"It's awesome," Neumann said. "I can't believe she's 12. She's so big."

Matthew, from Scotland, birdied five of her first nine holes _ hitting approach shots within 10 feet on all five holes. Her only mistake of the day was on No. 12, where she lost her tee shot in the black lava fields for a double bogey.

"Unfortunately, that one bad shot cost me two shots," she said. "I hit into the lava, never to be seen again."

She is coming off her best season, earning $704,123 and winning the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open for her first tour title.

"There must be something about Hawaii," she said.

Neumann had a bogey-free round, including four birdies on the final six holes. She sank an 18-foot putt on No. 5 and a 20-footer on No. 17.

"I was very consistent, and I putted good and made some 15- and 20-footers that I usually do not expect to make," she said. "I was aggressive into the greens, and I am not really sure, but it was just one of those days where I could picture the shots."

The calm conditions with only gentle ocean breezes contributed to the low scores. That's not what players were expecting after winds earlier in the week that reached 45 mph.

"After the last two or three days, which were just unbelievable, 75 would have been a good score," Matthew said.

"It was a little breezy out there but nothing like the last couple days."

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