Why Me?

Help! I'm playing with Michelle Wie in a U.S. Open qualifier
June 04, 2006

I didn't know howto take it when I found out that I'd be playing with Michelle Wie in the U.S.Open sectional qualifier on June 5 at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.On one hand I thought, Hey, this is pretty cool. I'll have a chance to watch a16-year-old kid try to make history by becoming the first woman ever to qualifyfor a men's major. Another part of me wanted to groan. Sad though I am to sayit, playing with Michelle will probably make earning a spot in this year's Openthat much tougher for me.

I'm no strangerto high-profile events. Before I took my present job--I'm the head pro atAtlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y.--I played on the European tour for 10years. I've also appeared in five majors, including the 2000 U.S. Open atPebble Beach, where I finished 46th. And I know what it's like to play underpressure. My partner, Mark Mielke, and I were the runners-up in last summer'sBig Stakes Match Play championship, in which the difference between first andsecond was $2.3 million.

But the qualifierwill be a different story. It has the potential to be a circus, with all thefans, officials and media focused on our group. It's not easy to survive thiskind of test in the first place. Thirty-six holes in one day is no picnic. Andin New Jersey there will be up to 156 of us--including PGA Tour pros BillyAndrade, Bernhard Langer and Mark O'Meara--competing for only 22 spots. Inqualifiers with these kinds of odds, I'm about 1 for 6. That's not great, butit's not bad either. Jesper Parnevik, an old friend, has never made it into aU.S. Open through a qualifier, although he has tried a couple times. He's onlygotten in on exemptions.

Word is that theUSGA intentionally paired David Gossett--a former U.S. Amateur champion who haswon on Tour--and myself with Michelle because of our experience with crowds.Fair enough. But on that basis, wouldn't Langer and O'Meara have been bettercandidates? One day I'll have to ask USGA executive director David Fay why Iwas selected.

Not that I'mcomplaining. I'm dying to watch Michelle play. Over the years I've only seenher hit about five shots, all on TV. People are just now filling me in on howshe qualified for the men's U.S. Public Links last summer and how she made acut last month on the men's Asian tour. I'm eager to ask her why she's sodetermined to play against men.

I'll have plentyof time to do it--I'll be out there with her for eight or nine hours. JustDavid, Michelle and I, and a few hundred fans, friends, officials, reportersand camera crews.

TRUST ME
by JAMES P. HERRE
Tiger Woods doesn't need a warmup. He'll be ready for the U.S. Open.

PHOTORICH FRISHMANMONEY PLAYER Hartmann and his partner made it all the way to the final of last year's Big Stakes Match Play. ILLUSTRATIONMichael Penick, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Color

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)