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USGA Publinx: Wie Advances to Quarters

Lebanon, Ohio (July 14, 2005) -– Stroke-play medalist Anthony Kim and 15-year-old wunderkind Michelle Wie continued their march through the 2005 U.S. Amateur Public Links match-play bracket on Thursday, each beating a pair of opponents at the 6,966-yard, par-70 Shaker Run Golf Club to reach the quarterfinals.

Wie, of Honolulu, Hawaii, and the first female to qualify for a USGA men’s championship, defeated C.D. Hockersmith of Richmond, Ind., 6 and 5 in the morning before outlasting reigning NAIA national champion Jim Renner of Plainville, Mass., in the round of 16, 3 and 1. Wie now meets 2004 APL quarterfinalist Clay Ogden of West Point, Utah in the quarters on Friday at 7:50 a.m.

Kim continued his torrid play on Shaker Run’s greens, converting 13 birdies over 29 holes in eliminated Judd Easterling of Dixon, Mo., 4 and 3, and 2004 APL and U.S. Junior semifinalist Sunghoon Kang of Korea, 5 and 4. The University of Oklahoma first-team All-American had eight birdies against Easterling and added five more against Kang. Kim will face Ryan Keeney of Redmond, Wash., at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. Keeney defeated Matt Savage of Louisville, Ky., in the longest match of the championship (23 holes).

All eight quarterfinalists earn exemptions to the 2006 APL.

But all of them are seeking something more than a return to this championship. The champion traditionally receives an invitation to the Masters, but that annual berth is strictly at the discretion of Augusta National. It is one reason why Wie wanted to qualify and compete in this championship.

“I am just trying to take it one match at a time,” said Wie, who would need to win both matches on Friday and then the 36-hole final on Saturday to take home the title. When asked if this is starting to feel like a job rather than just a golf competition, she said, “I’m not making any money, so it can’t be a job.”

Renner nearly missed his starting time, but hustled to the first tee just before he would get penalized a hole for being late. Had he been five minutes late, he would have been disqualified.

“I was on the range and was told there was another group and then Michelle and I,” said Renner, explaining his tardiness. “I was just going to hit two more drives and then they sent the search party out for me. Maybe that actually helped me at the first tee. I was a little winded, so I really didn’t have time to get nervous.”

Indeed, Renner hit some solid shots at the outset of his match, but found himself down by three holes entering the back nine thanks to a shaky putter. He missed four birdie putts inside of 6 feet at holes one, two, six and eight.

“Putting, which has always been my problem, didn’t help me out today,” said the 21-year-old Renner, a senior-to-be at Johnson & Wales in Miami, Fla. “You are not going to pick up [holes] on Michelle doing that.”

He cut the deficit to just one with a par at 10 and a birdie at 12, but Wie hit one of her best shots of the week at the par-4 13th, drilling a 3-iron approach from 220 yards to 15 feet to set up a birdie. Making the shot even more impressive was the fact that the ball was in a divot.

“I’d like to see another 15-year-old, or a 15-year-old in general, do that,” said Renner. “There’s not many guys in this tournament that can hit that shot. It was very impressive, what can I say?”

Added Wie: “It was an awesome shot. I usually only hit my 3-iron 210 [yards], but I hit that shot really solid.”

She virtually sealed the match two holes later when she chipped in for birdie when Renner was in close for a birdie of his own. Wie closed the match with another birdie at the par-5 17th.

Kim, meanwhile, continues to improve his play with each round. He struggled to beat the 64th qualifier, Ki Moon, on Wednesday (1 up), but after going down by three holes early to Easterling, he put his game into overdrive with six birdies over an eight-hole stretch. Against Kang, he quickly took a 4-up lead and never let go of the reigns.

Kim also exorcised some USGA demons that saw him lose in the second round of four of his past six events, including a 7-and-6 defeat to Chris Nallen at the 2004 U.S. Amateur.

“I kind of just got on a roll and stayed on it,” said Kim. “I really didn’t make too many mistakes. I think I am taking a different attitude into this tournament. I wanted to try it because obviously I keep losing in the second round. Everyone says you have to take it one shot at a time and I don’t think I’ve done that in the past, and that makes you focus a lot better on the shot at hand.”

When asked about getting an exemption for the 2006 APL, Kim turned the conversation to something bigger.

“I am shooting for a couple more,” said Kim, knowing that the APL finalists receive exemptions to the upcoming U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club and the champion usually gets the trip to the Masters. “I am shooting for a spot on some team.”

He was referring to the USA Walker Cup squad that is expected to be named sometime next week. The Walker Cup takes place Aug. 13-14 at Chicago Golf Club and the USA has lost the last three Matches to Great Britain & Ireland.

But Kim has a little more work before he can start thinking about any invitations.

“I know if I get to the finals, there is going to be a lot of people there, so I am just waiting to play on the big stage.”

While one teenager has grabbed all the attention, headlines and sound-bites this week, Hie, a 16-year-old senior-to-be at Cerritos High, has quietly made his own news in the bracket. He rallied from three holes down with three to play on Wednesday to eliminate Tye Alexander in 19 holes. Hie reached the quarters with wins over Song Jeon of Korea, 3 and 1, and Korey Mahoney of East Lansing, Mich., 2 and 1 to reach the round of eight.

“I don’t mind flying under the radar,” said Hie, who came to the U.S. six years ago. “One good thing keeps happening after another. Hopefully I will get the same kind of luck [on Friday] as I did today.”

Hie’s opponent on Friday, Ureta, was an honorable-mention All-America selection this past season for the University of North Carolina. Ureta eliminated Justin Metzger of Lenoir City, Tenn., 2 and 1, and Jay Choe of Yorba Linda, Calif., 4 and 3.

Royden Heirakuji of Makawao, Hawaii, came within a day of giving himself a nice 40th birthday gift. The air conditioning technician defeated 48-year-old Rob Long of Clarksville, Tenn., in the second round, 2 up, but fell in the afternoon to Garrett Jones of Rewey, Wis., 3 and 2. Jones was one of the first-round stroke-play qualifying co-leaders with a 66 back on Monday.

Duke Butler IV of Ponta Vedra Beach, Fla., recorded a hole-in-one at the 184-yard 14th hole in a second-round match against Marek. Butler, however, lost the match, 4 and 3.

Story written by USGA staff writer David Shefter. E-mail him with questions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.

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