HONOLULU (AP) — Michelle Wie is headed back home to Hawaii, this time as a full-fledged LPGA Tour member.
The 19-year-old Stanford sophomore will kick off the season at the LPGA’s first full-field event, the SBS Open from Feb. 12-14.
“It feels like a clean slate, a new beginning, and I finally feel like I really earned it,” Wie said in a statement Tuesday.
Turtle Bay has provided Wie with a couple of high points in her tumultuous young career.
She played the first SBS in 2005 as a 15-year-old amateur and finished tied for second with Cristie Kerr, two strokes behind winner Jennifer Rosales. Wie was lone amateur in the field and the only player to shoot under par for three rounds in difficult conditions on Oahu’s North Shore that frustrated veterans twice her age.
It was also at Turtle Bay in 2006 that she became the first female to win a local qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open. She earned the first of three spots into the sectionals. Another fresh-faced teen from Hawaii named Tadd Fujikawa got the last one, snaking in a 65-foot putt on the last hole of a three-way playoff. Fujikawa would eventually earn a spot at Winged Foot and become the youngest player to participate in an Open at age 15.
Wie has struggled since injuring her wrists a couple of years ago, and it took a toll on her confidence. She had a difficult 2008 but ended the year at Q-school where she earned her LPGA card.
In an article Monday in The Honolulu Advertiser, Wie said she was planning to play a “full schedule,” on the LPGA Tour and will try other tours while continuing her education at Stanford.
Whatever she does, the golf world will be watching to see if Wie can regain the confidence, ability and limitless promise she showed when she first played at Turtle Bay.
“I’ve matured a lot,” she told the newspaper. “I can handle bad shots better. I can handle stuff not going as well as planned. Surprises and all that, they come with the game. I’ve had such a rough time, I know now how to handle stuff when it’s not going my way.”
Wie will make her first LPGA start since July 2008 when she was disqualified from the State Farm Classic, one shot behind going into the final round, when it was determined she had left the scoring area without signing her card after the second round.
She also opened 2008 in Hawaii at the Fields Open, where she closed with a 6-over 78 to finish tied for last among the 74 players who made the cut.