Wie’s Shot Heard ’Round The Kahkwa Club September 10, 2016 | Erie, Pa. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Michelle Wie was just 14 years old when she competed in the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur at The Kahkwa Club. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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In retrospect, Scott Hovde might have called it a warning shot, if only he had seen or heard it coming.

Back in 2004, Hovde, the assistant director of Handicap & Course Rating at the USGA, was on-site at The Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa., the site of this week’s 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship. Hovde was there to chart driving distances for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the second USGA championship hosted by the club.

“I was marking the golf course with my volunteer assistant,” recalled Hovde. “We were on the 17th fairway, and we marked it in 10-yard increments from 220 yards to about 260. That seemed a reasonable limit, because even if a player went 10 or 15 yards past that mark we would still be able to pace it off.”

They watched as one of the first groupings of three players played the hole during stroke play.

“We saw two balls land at about 220 or 230 yards, then roll out another 20 yards or so – pretty typical as the average drive for the week ended up being about 240,” recalled Hovde. “Then they started walking off the tee. We looked at each other and asked, ‘Did we miss somebody? Why didn’t three players hit?’”

The third player in the group had indeed hit. It was Michelle Wie, 14, and she had flown her shot so far over the spotters that they had not seen or heard it land. They later measured the tee shot at 315 yards, some 75 yards longer than her fellow competitors.

“The next-longest shot for the day was 285 yards,” said Hovde. “As Michelle walked past us to her tee shot, what I remember realizing was how tall she was, probably 6 feet tall. The hype was already out there, but a lot of people didn’t believe it – they didn’t think it could be true. As we watched her play, we thought, there may be a lot of hype, but it’s pretty darn true.”

Wie had already captured the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. She had played in the Sony Open on the PGA Tour earlier in 2004 – missing the cut by just one stroke – and competed for the victorious USA Curtis Cup Team two months before the Women’s Amateur.

Wie shot qualifying rounds of 75-78 at Kahkwa, then outlasted Angela Park in her first-round match, 1 up. Wie lost in the Round of 32 to Inbee Park, 1 up. Park, of the Republic of Korea, is 15 months older than Wie and won the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2002. She lost in the Round of 16 to another heralded young player, Morgan Pressel.

Both Wie and Park would go on to win the U.S. Women’s Open, with Park capturing the 2008 and 2013 championships and Wie winning in 2014 at Pinehurst. Park’s professional career has netted seven major championships in all, as well as the gold medal in golf’s recent return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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