Michelle Wie, the golfing prodigy from Hawaii, added another first to her resume by becoming the first amateur player given a special exemption into the U.S. Women's Open.
Wie, a 14-year-old who recently finished the ninth grade, was granted the exemption yesterday by the U.S. Golf Association, which runs the tournament. She had planned to try to qualify, but now has an automatic berth into the field for the event, to be held July 1-4 at Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass.
"Against the best in the game, she clearly would have been exempt," David Fay, executive director of the USGA, told the Associated Press in announcing the special exemption. The USGA already has exempted veteran LPGA stars Dottie Pepper and Betsy King into the field.
Wie has played in three LPGA events this season on sponsor's exemptions and finished fourth in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major championship on the schedule. She also had two top-20 finishes, including a tie for 12th at Kingsmill in Williamsburg two weeks ago in the Michelob Ultra Championship.
As an amateur, she could not accept prize money in those tournaments. But her earnings would have been about $131,000, good for 28th place on the LPGA's money list. The USGA exempts the top 35 on the money list for the Women's Open.
Wie will have a busy summer. She will represent the United States on the American team in the Curtis Cup matches in England on June 12-13. A week later, she will defend her title in the U.S. Women's Public Links championship in Williamsburg, then play in the Open the following week.
Wie already is the USGA's youngest champion of an adult event after winning the Public Links at 13. She also is the youngest to qualify for a USGA adult tournament when she earned a place in the 2000 Public Links at the age of 10. She also got a sponsor's exemption this year in the Sony Open on the PGA Tour, and missed making the cut by a shot after shooting 68 in the second round.
She'll be playing in her second U.S. Women's Open. Last year she went through qualifying to get into the field at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon, and eventually finished tied for 39th.
It was not a particularly pleasant experience. Danielle Ammaccapone, an LPGA veteran, was openly critical of several perceived lapses in etiquette by Wie and her father, B.J., who was caddying for his daughter in the tournament. She also berated Wie in the scorer's trailer after one round. B.J. Wie no longer caddies for his daughter. Wie is only the fourth amateur to get an exemption into an Open field. Jay Sigel in 1980 and Aaron Baddeley in 2000 were exempted into the men's Open. And Vinny Giles was given an exemption into the U.S. Senior Open last year.