When Michelle Wie, 13, of Honolulu, won the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links with a 1-up win over Duke University All-American Virada Nirapathpongporn, of Thailand, at Ocean Hammock Golf Club in Palm Coast, Fla., she became the youngest competitor to win an adult championship in USGA history. Wie took a 1-up lead on the 35th hole when Nirapathpongporn, 21, missed a 3-foot par putt, and both players parred the final hole. It was Wie’s first victory outside of Hawaii, and it came in her fourth WAPL appearance. Wie, who played on the victorious 2004 USA Curtis Cup Team, lost in the championship match a year later to Yani Tseng and turned professional in the fall of 2005, a few months after she became the first female to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Public Links, where she was a quarterfinalist. Since turning pro, Wie has posted three LPGA Tour victories, including her first on U.S. soil at the Lotte Championship in April.
What did winning the WAPL mean to you?
Oh, it was a dream come true. The Public Links was the first national event that I played when I was 10 years old. It was amazing. I really looked forward to the USGA events. The Public Links was one of my favorite events out of all of them. And when I won, I was so tired, but so proud of myself and just so happy.
What is your most vivid memory from that championship week?
I think it’s just walking down 18. I hit it down the fairway and hit it on the green. I knew I won. Just walking down the fairway – that feeling was amazing.
You had a fierce 36-hole championship match with Nirapathpongporn. Did another match stand out that week or was it that one?Oh no, that was the one because I was 4 down twice during the 36 holes. I really stressed out. It was pretty memorable. I still remember every hole.
Do you still stay in touch with anyone you met at the WAPL?
Yes, I’m really good friends with Jane Park. I played against her in a lot of events. A lot of us stay in touch. We all got together at the USGA championships, and during all the rain delays, we would hang out and play card games. We just got really close. I remember hanging out with Jane Park and all of those junior golfers around my time, as well as my Curtis Cup Team members like Paula Creamer, Brittany Lang and all of them. I still remember playing junior golf with them.
You have accomplished a lot in your golf career, so where does the WAPL title fit?
It’s pretty big, definitely one of my biggest milestones. I think USGA championships are so prestigious and they are definitely the most important of the year for me. Being able to call myself a WAPL winner, I feel very honored. I feel very lucky to be in that group of people.
How do you feel about the WAPL being retired after this year?
It’s sad. It’s very sad. It’s definitely going to be missed. I’m sad that future generations of golfers aren’t going to experience the WAPL. But the USGA is having a new event (Women’s Amateur Four-Ball), so it’s a new time to make new memories. It looks like it’s going to be an interesting format, but I’m definitely sad to see the WAPL go.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.