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Wie embraces pro pressure



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HONOLULU -- In announcing she was turning professional Wednesday, golf prodigy Michelle Wie, a novelty act on the men's and women's pro tours the last three years, will start trying to take money out of the pockets of rivals old enough to be her parents.

Suddenly, the dynamics of her meteoric and historic rise have taken a personal twist. The 15-year-old, who booms drives 300 yards and has targeted The Masters as her No.1 goal, says she welcomes the challenge, which will start next week with her pro debut in the LPGA Samsung World Championship in Palm Springs, Calif.

"I don't see it as pressure. I see it as an opportunity to work hard and play better," Wie said. "I enjoy pressure, being under the spotlight, having to make a putt. I love that. That's why I do that."

Tiger Woods, once a phenom himself, called her announcement "exciting" and said he foresees her handling the pressure as a teen.

"I wouldn't see any reason why she can't," Woods said. "When I was 16, I wasn't even thinking about turning pro, I was just hoping to get into college somewhere. She has a talent and has been good enough to make a giant step like that. At 16, I was just excited to get my driver's license."

Wie joined the pro ranks with financial deals in place with Nike and Sony worth close to $10 million a year, based on similar golf and tennis deals, but her first move as a pro was to donate $500,000 to the U.S. Golf Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

"The biggest pro in turning pro is that I would be in a position to help people," she said.

Wie said she would not join the LPGA tour until she turned 18. "School is a priority," said Wie, who plans on finishing high school and hopes to attend Stanford. "I definitely plan to graduate no matter how long it takes."

Contributing: Tom Spousta

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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