Michelle Wie pumps her fist after making a shot on the 7th hole during match play at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, at the Shaker Run Country Club in Lebanon Ohio. Wednesday July 13, 2005.
AP/Photo Tony Tribbble.
LEBANON, Ohio Michelle Wie took another step toward a possible Masters invitation.
Wie made a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to edge Will Claxton 1-up in her first match at the men's Amateur Public Links on Wednesday.
''I'm very relieved I got through today,'' Wie said. ''It was really tough out there. It felt good after I made that putt. I have a lot more days to go, so hopefully I can keep that trend going.''
The 15-year-old, who will be a high school junior this fall, is the first female to qualify for a men's U.S. Golf Association championship. She's playing in the APL because the winner traditionally gets an invitation to play at Augusta.
Wie still has a long way to go. She would have to win five more matches before getting the coveted invitation.
''Tomorrow's a whole new day,'' she said when asked about her upcoming match.
Wie advances to play C.D. Hockersmith of Richmond, Ind., in the second round on Thursday. The third round of match play follows in the afternoon.
Hockersmith, whose eyes remain open when he sleeps, said he's looking at the match as an opportunity.
Wie had to be on top her game against Claxton, a 23-year-old who recently graduated from Auburn. He was a quarterfinalist in the APL a year ago and didn't buckle despite a large gallery that cheered Wie from the start. More than 200 people walked the first few holes with the pair, with more gradually joining until the gallery had doubled by the end despite a nagging, daylong drizzle.
Not everybody was rooting for Wie.
After Claxton hit close to the flag with his second shot on the par-4 fourth hole, a friend in the gallery shouted, '''Attaboy, Blue!'' Claxton's hat, shirt and clubhead covers all bore the Auburn logo and blue and orange school colors.
Still, the loudest roar of the day came when Wie made her putt on the final hole.
''She did an incredible job,'' Claxton said. ''I didn't play bad out there. I hit a lot of good iron shots. She hit fairways and greens and she putted really well. Her short game's incredible. I was very impressed.''
Wie was 2-down through eight holes and never led until Claxton conceded a birdie putt on the 15th hole.
Claxton came back on the next hole, rolling in a 40-foot putt for birdie.
After his curling putt went in, Wie had a chance to drop a 20-foot birdie putt but missed, squaring the match with two holes left.
Claxton's shot out of a fairway bunker at the 17th ended up in a horrendous lie under a tree on an upslope about 75 yards from the green. He then punched a 52-degree wedge to 10 feet.
Wie pulled her drive into a tree line and had to chip out before hitting her third into a greenside bunker. She blasted out to 5 feet, then had to hold her breath while Claxton missed his birdie putt. She kept the match square by saving par.
At the 18th, both players hit into the fairway, with Wie drilling a 6 iron to 15 feet. Claxton hit an 8 iron on the green but 30 feet short. After he missed his long birdie putt, Wie made the clincher.
Wie hit 10 of 14 fairways, eight of 18 greens in regulation and totaled 27 putts at Shaker Run Golf Club.
Claxton said he tried to make conversation with Wie on the first tee about the large gallery and all the distractions.
''I asked her if she had to deal with this every day,'' Claxton said. ''She just said, 'Yes,' and kept on walking.''
It was an upsetting day for some of the top players from the 36 holes of medal play.
The medalist, Oklahoma junior-to-be Anthony Kim, beat Ki Moon of Ellicott, Md., 1-up. But the three players who tied for second all lost.
Danny Green of Jackson, Tenn., playing in his 13th APL, fell 2-and-1 to Roger Welch of Benedict, Md.; Iowa State junior Rodney Hamblin Jr. fell to Clay Ogden of West Point, Utah, 1-up; and 16-year-old Sihwan Kim, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion, was beaten 5-and-4 by Royden Heirakuji of Makawao, Hawaii.
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