Hello, Wie: Pro debut draws raves

first_img Nine years ago, it was Tiger Woods saying “Hello, World” in his late-season professional debut on the PGA Tour. On Thursday in the Coachella Valley, it was “Hello, Wie,” and the 6-foot teenager – bedecked in orange with more swoosh logos – gave the largest gallery of the day plenty of cheering incentive. The par save on No. 3 came with the help of an approach shot to a foot of the flagstick. She made birdie putts of 2, 4, 21 and 3 feet, the latter with the aid of a 57-foot lag putt from off the back of the green on the 508-yard, par-5 12th hole. Wie ranked second in the 20-player invitational field in driving with a 270-yard average, drilling a tee shot 290 yards on the 538-yard, par-5 15th hole. She rimmed out another birdie from 12 feet on No. 9 and nearly saved par on No. 18 despite hitting into two bunkers, barely missing on a putt from 12 feet. Kerr, a teen phenom herself when she joined the tour at age 18 – eight years ago – said she could relate to the pressure Wie must have been feeling and admired her playing partner’s poise and performance. “It was fun to watch,” said Kerr, who especially liked the way Wie striped her first shot down the middle – “I think I shanked it or hit it very poorly, my first shot as a professional.” Kerr, who remembered her early tour days, with no players her age, said she intended to be there for Wie, if needed. “I just feel for what she is going through,” Kerr said. “I don’t think most people realize how much pressure is really on her. And I think she is doing just fine.” Wie definitely is doing fine and said she didn’t feel much first-tee pressure Thursday – to a point. “I wasn’t really that nervous when I put by ball into the tee. I wasn’t really nervous during my practice swing. But once I got over the tee shot, my heart was thumping, I have to admit.” Then, right down the middle – an accomplishment Wie called her most memorable of her first day as a pro. “That,” she said, “was pretty cool.” So was having Wie on the tour, Sorenstam said. “It’s a big step for her to turn professional,” she said, “but, you know, I think she can handle it. She is obviously very talented. We all know that. And her future is very bright. I wish her all the best.” Dave Shelburne, (818) 713-3609 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Sorenstam, the defending champion, four-time Samsung winner and world’s No. 1-ranked female golfer, wound up leading the tournament at 8-under-par 64, six shots better than Wie. But it was difficult to tell that without the help of a scoreboard one group ahead, where the willowy Wie had her fans appreciatively applauding on almost every shot throughout her pro-debut round of 70. “I think I did pretty well,” said Wie, who hit 10 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens, made four birdies against two bogeys and had a notable par save after taking an unplayable lie when she hit into a bush on the 473-yard par-5 third hole. “I shot under par, so I’m happy with that, but I feel like I can play better. Hopefully, I will play better the next few days.” If Thursday was any indication, the 2003 U.S. Women’s Public Links Champion who has signed endorsement deals with Nike and Sony for a reported combined $10 million yearly will be well-supported by her fans. The cheering started when she split the fairway with a 3-wood tee shot on her first hole and ended when Wie drew as much applause for a final-hole bogey as Kerr did for a birdie that got her to 65 and a share of the clubhouse lead with Gloria Park. Then, there were those crushing tee shots, routinely leaving the 16-year-old Hawaiian 10th grader 30 yards in front of playing partner and brief tournament co-leader Cristie Kerr. And finally, there was the relative silence of the gallery cheering the final twosome playing immediately behind Wie – LPGA Rookie of the Year Paula Creamer and seven-time Player of the Year Annika Sorenstam. center_img PALM DESERT – Michelle Wie was hard to miss Thursday in her professional golf debut at the Samsung World Championship. First, there was that huge, sponsor-swoosh-logoed umbrella, shading the LPGA’s newest millionaire from the bright sunshine at Bighorn Golf Club. last_img read more

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