Michelle Wie, a 14-year-old Hawaiian golf prodigy, received a special exemption this week from the US Golf Association (USGA) to play in this year's US Women's Open. This is the first time a woman has received such an exemption and the first time an amateur player has been granted this waiver into the largest tournament in women’s golf. USGA executive director David Fay told the Associated Press that Wie’s exemption was based solely on performance and if she weren’t an amateur unable to collect tournament prize money, she would have ranked 28th on the prize money list in the three LPGA events she has played. The top 35 on the LPGA money list are invited to the Open.
Wie has already set a number of records. She is the USGA’s youngest champion of an adult event after winning the US Women’s Public Links at age 13 and the youngest to qualify for a USGA adult tournament at age 10, according to the Washington Post. According to the AP, Wie has entered, and will likely qualify for, the US Amateur Public Links in July, a men's event run by the USGA, whose winner receives an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. An all-male club, Augusta National is notorious for its discriminatory practices against women. Wie's long-stated goal, according to USA Today, is to become the first woman to play in the Masters.
Wei was honored as one of Ms. magazine’s 50 Women Who Made a Difference in 2003 in its annual Women of the Year issue. According to Ms., Wie’s drives average 280 yards – nearly 25 yards farther than those of top LPGA star Annika Sorenstam.