Wie will play in hometown PGA Tour event

HONOLULU -- Michelle Wie accepted a sponsor's exemption to
play in the Sony Open in January, putting her in position to become
the youngest female to play in a PGA Tour event.

''It's a dream to play in the Sony Open,'' the 14-year-old Wie
said Thursday. ''I just hope I can play good and show what I can

In an unusual move, Gov. Linda Lingle requested that tournament
officials allow Wie to play in her hometown event, the PGA Tour's
first full-field tournament of the year.

The governor said at a news conference with Wie that the
teen-age golfer's appearance at the golf event will bring added
exposure to the Sony Open and Hawaii.

''She has played this sport at the highest level under
tremendous pressure and unbelievable media attention and scrutiny
that anyone of any age would've had a difficult time dealing with
it,'' Lingle said. ''And she's done it with such grace.''

Wie failed in two previous attempts to qualify for the
tournament. She shot a 73 last year in Monday qualifying, and had
an 84 in 2000. This year, she won't have to play in the qualifier.

Wie has played in nine professional tournaments this year. She
competed against the men in the Nationwide Tour's Boise Open and
the Canadian Tour's Bay Mills Open Players Championship, missing
the cut in both events.

But Wie thinks she has a pretty good shot at the Sony on her
home island.

''I live in Hawaii and I'm used to the grass,'' she said. ''When
they come here, I hear they have a lot of trouble playing in the
Bermuda grass.''

Wie said she was thankful for the sponsor's exemption because it
meant she didn't have to play another Monday qualifier.

''I like the easy route,'' she said. ''I know how hard it can
be. It's a one-day deal and anything can happen.''

Wie received one of four unrestricted sponsor's exemptions,
which will most likely result in one less Japanese pro playing in
the event.

In year's past, Sony granted one unrestricted exemption to the
winner of the Aloha Section PGA's Governor's Cup and the other
three usually went to Japanese pros.

Two weeks ago, Wie finished last in a field of 69 players in the
CJ Nine Bridges Classic in South Korea, her seventh and final LPGA
Tour event of the year.

Her best finish was at the LPGA Tour's first major, where she
finished ninth in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March. She was
paired in the major's final group with Annika Sorenstam and
Patricia Meunier-Lebouc.

Among her other accomplishments this year, Wie became the
youngest player to win a USGA title for adults in the U.S. Women's
Amateur Public Links and made the cut at the U.S. Women's Open.

The 6-foot golf prodigy whose 300-yard drives attract huge
galleries, turned 14 last month and recently began her freshman
year at Punahou School.

If golf doesn't pan out, Wie might consider other sports.

The coach of an American Samoa men's basketball team, one of
three teams being recognized by Lingle on Thursday, said he would
be happy to have her suit up.

''I'm not really good at basketball,'' Wie said. ''I like golf
because you can actually walk.''