Once the only teen sensation of female golfers, tall and regal and training for greatness, Michelle Wie learned this week it might not be easy to stay at the top.
Wie, 14, failed in her bid to repeat as the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion on Sunday, losing 1 up when Ya-Ni Tseng made a 12-foot putt for birdie to cap a dramatic comeback on the 36th hole.
"I think that golf is getting better, and golf is getting younger," Wie said before heading to Massachusetts for next week's U.S. Women's Open, where she was scheduled to play a practice round at 9 a.m. Monday.
"Nothing really worked out for me today, from the start to the end," Wie said, her eyes welling up with tears. "I just played terribly. I made a lot of bogeys and gave a lot of strokes away."
Tseng, a 15-year-old from Taiwan, rallied from 4 down after 14 holes and 1 down with three to play.
Tseng feared she would be nervous at the outset, but said her nerves subsided after her first drive. A birdie at No. 2 calmed her further.
Even when Wie finally got going and started winning holes, including three out of four to take the 4-up lead, "I tried to calm down and said there are a lot of holes to play," Tseng said through an interpreter.
"I kept telling myself I needed some birdies to get some holes back."
Tseng had handed Wie the 15th hole by hitting her drive into the woods and having to hit again from the tee.
Wie then helped create her own demise, lipping out a six-footer for a three-putt on the 16th green; that mis-hit allowed Tseng to get even. Wie also left her blast from a perfect lie in the sand 25 winding feet from the cup on the finishing hole, and then left her putt sitting on the right edge.
"I think I got a bit tired at the end," Wie said. "I couldn't keep my, what do you call it, concentration level up. I had a hard time putting. That was the main problem. I couldn't get anything close to the hole."
Coach Gary Gilchrist, who walked every hole with Wie throughout the grueling six-day event, said the loss would be valuable for Wie, who is well into her grooming for a professional career.
"It's going to teach her to hang in, which she did to the end, and over time, she's going to have to understand that there's ups and downs in the game of golf," he said. "She [was] beaten by a pretty good putt."
Tseng looked as though she would lose after she dropped to 4 down after 14 holes, but never gave up hope. She cut the deficit to 2 up with her first birdie from the sand on the 18th hole, closed to 1 up with a four-foot birdie on the 21st hole and rose at the finish for her biggest victory.
Wie only trailed early, but said she felt she was playing from behind all day.
"Even though I was 2 up, I felt like I was 5 down," she said.