County juniors know of Woods, not Wie|[7/13/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 13, 2005

One would think that just about any golfer has heard of Michelle Wie, the 15-year-old, teen phenom who just missed making the cut at last weekend’s John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., a men’s PGA Tour event.

Then again, maybe not. Nine-year-old junior golfers Christian Gilbert or Gabe Stuckey didn’t know who she was. Neither did 8-year-old Conner Smith, who’s a bit of prodigy himself.

The trio spent Tuesday morning at Clear Creek Golf Course battling the front nine as part of the Warren County Junior Golf Tournament.

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While they haven’t heard of Wie, they all know who Tiger Woods is.

“I like his drives,” Stuckey said. So does Smith who impressed his group by firing a 43 over the nine holes.

“I’ve been playing since I was four,” Smith said.

Clear Creek pro Kent Smith, who organized the event, said, “Conner Smith is going to be a good little golfer,”

A total of 10 juniors battled the mid-morning, summer heat, in a bid to improve their games.

Wie, who tries to do the same by playing against pros, got a bit more respect from the 12-and-ups.

“She’s real good,” said 13-year-old Chaz Fowler who shot a 49 over his nine holes. “She makes real good shots and is real consistent. It’s good for her to play the best competition she can play.”

If Fowler could get his wish to play at any golf course in the world, he might someday play against Wie, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii.

“The course I’d most like to play at is one in Hawaii, but I don’t know the name of it,” he said.

Fowler showed his commitment to the game is pretty strong when he answered about the punishment John Deere Classic winner Sean O’Hair got when he made a bogey. O’Hair’s father made him run a mile for each bogey made, at 5 a.m. no less.

“I guess I wouldn’t make a bogey,” Fowler answered. “But if I did, I wouldn’t quit because I wouldn’t want to give golf up.”

Lance Webster, 12, isn’t so sure.

“If I had to run after ever bogey, I’d probably quit,” he said.

Webster, though, is a fan of the Big Wiesy.

“She’s pretty good for her age. The most impressive thing is her drives. I saw her play on TV,” said Webster who has been playing golf for the past two years.

Chase Smith, considered the top junior in the area, said he’s impressed with Wie’s overall game.

“She’s probably the best 15-year-old, boy or girl out there, period,” Smith said. “What separates my game from hers is her maturity, I guess.”

Smith has had his share of success having won the MHSAA Class 1A medalist honors back in May at the State Tournament at Vicksburg Country Club. He won a two-man scramble on Sunday with Bill Hassell at Clear Creek and made the cut at the Mississippi State Amateur in June.

Smith adds, that Wie also had a big playing advantage, over him.

“She’s a product of the Ledbetter School in Florida. All she does is play golf and it’s at Ledbetter where you go to school so you can learn to play golf.”

Playing with Smith in the senior bracket were Brandon Webster (15) and Cameron Miller (16).

“Isn’t she that Chinese girl,” Brandon Webster said about Wie. Actually, Wie is of Korean descent. “I watch golf sometimes, but not a lot.”

Miller is a California native who is in Vicksburg to see relatives.

“I know who she is, but I haven’t watched her play,” said Miller who plays third base for his high school baseball team back in Dublin, Calif.