Gambling911 Referenced in ESPN Story on Michelle Wie & US Open
In fact, no woman had ever emerged from local qualifying prior to the 2006 U.S. Open. Michelle Wie tackled that stage in Honolulu only a week after returning from making the cut in a men's tournament, the SK Telecom in South Korea. She had to score low enough on 18 holes to win one of three slots open to a field of 40 men and, of course, one girl.
"Awesome," Wie replied to the USGA official who brought her the news.
The first woman in history to advance to sectional qualifying would play her next round in Summit, N.J., against the likes of Mark O'Meara, Bernard Langer and about 200 other male golfers, including professionals and amateurs. Roughly 20 golfers would then go on to play in the 2006 U.S. Open later that summer at Winged Foot Golf Club, one of the most storied tracks in the world of golf, in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Why New Jersey? Michelle could have stayed in Hawaii and played in the sectional qualifier there, with all the local love and less of the national competition. Instead, the Wies flew first to northern Maryland, site of the LPGA Championship, scheduled to begin only three days after the Open sectionals, so Michelle could practice. They then drove in a rented minivan to New Jersey.
The decision made no sense. Why practice on a women's course, with greens cut at one length, then play on a men's course, with another cut, then return to the first course? Once Wie got one putting speed down, it would be time to switch to another speed, and then back again. But the Wie ambition knew no limits. It was the way the family thought. When facing a choice between (a) and (b), the Wies invariably opted for (c).
Leading up to sectionals, Sports Illustrated ran a first-person column by Rick Hartmann, the jovial head pro from a club on Long Island who was slated to play in Wie's group. The headline: "Why Me? Help! I'm Playing with Michelle Wie in a U.S. Open Qualifier." USA Today's Ian O'Connor reported on Jack Nicklaus' "100 percent" support of Wie's effort if she qualified.
Reports from Europe rang in with defending U.S. Open champ Michael Campbell's comment that "She's got to prove that she can win on the women's tour before she can even have a chance on the men's tour." (online gaming news) Gambling sites such as gambling911.com and pinnaclesports.com offered action on whether Wie would make it, putting her odds at slightly better than 7 to 1 against.
"The national media will descend on Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit like locusts," wrote Stephen Edelson of the Asbury Park Press. "The normally subdued event known as U.S. Open sectional qualifying will be turned into nothing short of a circus sideshow thanks to her presence."
Sideshow? No, Wie's presence made the main event. One day after Wie made sectionals, USGA media relations director Craig Smith fielded an e-mail from a reporter asking about credentials for Canoe Brook. "None needed," Smith wrote back, "just show up and join the party."
But at any really good party, the room fills up a little faster than the party throwers expect. Sectionals were normally quiet enough for the few gallery members to hear conversations between players and caddies; now the USGA had a rock concert on its hands.
Wie played in a group with Hartmann and David Gossett, a winner of the U.S. Amateur and the John Deere Classic. Organizers, knowing Wie would create enough stir to clog the entire course, decided to put her group last, at 8:35 a.m. off the easier South Course and then at 2:20 p.m. off the more difficult North Course. The 36-hole odyssey would take 11 hours.
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