Just 10 events into her career as an LPGA professional, Michelle Wie has quickly found how difficult playing full-time on tour really is.
The 19-year-old Hawaiian has four top-10 finishes this year, including a 10th place finish last week at the Wegmans LPGA thanks in part to a final round 69. She has yet to win in 2009, but a victory this week in the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic would earn her a spot in next week's U.S. Women's Open.
"That's definitely my No. 1 goal," Wie said yesterday at Highland Meadows. "I'm really excited for this week. Even if it wasn't for the U.S. Open, I'd still be excited for this week, but there's extra motivation. You really have to buckle up."
After beginning the year with a second place finish at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, Wie struggled to her two worst finishes of the year at the J Golf Phoenix LPGA International (57th) and Kraft Nabisco Championship (67th).
It was during those weeks Wie discovered what it takes to be a tour professional.
The big thing is "energy management," Wie said. "Playing every week, going on the road, being in different climates, you really have to take care of your body and be careful what you do," Wie said. "Playing every week, you learn a lot from playing a lot."
Wie has been able to put together back-to-back 10th place finishes heading into the Farr and has climbed to 16th on the money list with $397,589 in earnings this season.
"I feel like I've been playing pretty solidly," Wie said. "From time to time, the scores really haven't been reflecting it, but there's definitely room for improvement. I definitely want to play a lot better in the second half of the year."
GIVING BACK: On Monday afternoon, 30 LPGA players from South Korea volunteered their time at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio. Yesterday the Korean players followed that up with a $13,570 donation to the house. Their check will cover the cost of three to four rooms in the house for one year. All 47 Korean players on tour contributed to the donation.
Se Ri Pak, the five-time winner of the Farr Classic, organized that effort and got the players together for the afternoon of volunteering. The players gardened, did laundry, and put together gift baskets for the families to take to hospitals.
"This is the first time we've done this all together as players," Pak said. "We had a great experience. It wasn't really a huge check that we gave, but this is the first time. We'll try to make it bigger and bigger."
Along with Pak, Hee-Won Han, Jeong Jang, and In-Bee Park attended a presentation yesterday at Highland Meadows to give the check.
"Hopefully we'll try to do this every year," Park said.
FEELING AT HOME: Pak feels like a celebrity in the Toledo area. This is her 12th straight year at the Farr Classic, beginning in 1998 when she won the tourney.
"I know a lot of the fans out here, and everywhere I go they are supportive," Pak said. "They recognize me, and everybody in the city talks about it.
"It's probably the best city I've ever been to."
Of course, all the fame puts more weight on Pak's shoulders to become the first player to win an event six times. She last won the Farr Classic in 2007.
"I know it's not easy, and it can be extra pressure on me," Pak said. "I don't think it's any more difficult to get to number six, though. I feel really great."
EVENT FOLDS: The Farr Classic is one of a reported 19 LPGA events whose contracts with the tour expire upon conclusion of tournament play in 2009. So the LPGA is under the gun to negotiate numerous renewals.
Yesterday, the association lost an event unexpectedly. The Kapalua Land Company announced it would suspend tournament operations for '09 with four years remaining on a five-year contract with the LPGA. The Kapalua Classic was to have been staged Oct. 12-18 at the Bay Course in Kapalua, Maui.
The Kapalua Land Company said it was unable to find a title sponsor for '09 after serving in that role itself a year ago in the event's inaugural year. Morgan Pressel was the '08 champion.
The LPGA, in a statement, said: "We will vigorously enforce all our legal rights under the contract due to breach. While we understand the difficulties faced by all businesses due to the recession, the Kapalua Land Company, the contract holder, is continuing to conduct business."
The Honolulu Star-
Bulletin reported that Kapalua Land Company's corporate parent, Maui Land and Pineapple, Inc., lost $70.6 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2008, compared to a $4 million loss in the same quarter a year earlier.
BOSSES MEET: Carolyn Bivens, the LPGA commissioner, was in Toledo on Tuesday and met with Mike Thaman, the CEO of Owens Corning, the Farr Classic's title sponsor. Tournament director Judd Silverman said it "was just a chat, not a negotiating meeting. We'll start contract negotiations with the LPGA immediately following the tournament."
THE FINAL WORD: Tournament host Jamie Farr celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday and did it up right at the end of the O-I Celebrity Pro-Am. He made key putts for his team on each of the last three holes, including a 35-foot bomb for birdie on No. 18.
Earlier, he was asked about the future of the tournament that has sported his name since its inception in 1984, but which must negotiate a new contract with the LPGA under tough economic conditions.
"I don't know the intricate details," Farr said. "But I'd say there's a 50-50 chance of the tournament being here next year. Now, understand, that's based on absolutely nothing but my own instincts."