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Michelle Wie learns from first year as a professional

Hawaiian golf prodigy Michelle Wie celebrated her 17th birthday, still determined to make the cut in a USPGA event after a difficult debut year as a professional.

"Definitely it's a long term goal for me. I'm going to work at it. I'm not going to achieve it overnight," Wie said. "It's going to be a long process. I'm willing to work at it. Hopefully I'm going to play a lot of men's events."

Wie is among 20 women gathered here for the LPGA Samsung World Championship that begins Thursday, and while she has not decided upon plans for her second pro season, expect more top LPGA events and sponsor invitations to face men.

"We haven't really sat down and talked about next year but I think now I know my limits, the number of tournaments in a row and how to handle my sponsor days and school and stuff like that," Wie said.

Wie missed the cut at the PGA Sony Open in January, withdrew from the John Deere Classic in July due to the heat and missed the cut at 14-over at last month's 84 Lumber Classic. She also missed the cut in her European Tour debut.

In seven LPGA events, Wie has six top-five finishes. But her best result was second at July's Evian Masters in France.

She missed chances for victory at the three US-based women's majors, third at the US Women's Open and Kraft Nabisco and fifth at the LPGA Championship.

"It was very hectic this year. I think I had a successful year," Wie said. "I am very proud of the fact that I was in contention in almost every single tournament that I played in. Three out of four majors, top five.

"Being in contention Sunday, I learned a lot from it. Obviously I had my downs this year but I think I had a lot more ups than downs. I have to say it was a good first year. It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to my second year."

Still trying to capture a breakthrough LPGA title, Wie has ignored critics and taken a boost from people who admire her determination to challenge men.

"Especially a lot of women come up to me and they're like, 'It's really nice to see someone play against the men. Not because of equal rights, not just because of a woman's right.'

"Hearing those kind of things, it's nice. And obviously my parents, friends, everyone you know, they really support me. So I feel like I'm doing the right thing."

Wie shrugged off a difficult summer as a learning experience and vowed that overscheduling will not be a problem for her in 2007.

"I think that was the growing pains," she said. "I have to learn how to schedule better, how much my body can take and when I should play, how many tournaments is the peak for me. My first year I hadn't got it down yet.

"Obviously I learn from my mistakes. I really realize how much my body can take."

Wie's sees her game as more consistent than when she turned pro a year ago.

"Hopefully it's a lot more consistent," she said. "I feel like with one more year under my belt I feel like I have a little more experience, a little more data bank to recall from. I just feel like I've matured a little bit."

The high school senior is making early applications to colleges and vows to mix university life with pro golf, even though she admits to being a far better driver with golf clubs than behind a steering wheel.

"One thing I would say, if you see me on the road, go in the opposite direction," Wie said.

October 12, 2006




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