Michelle Wie Returns To Hawaii For The 7th Annual Lotte Championship
In just a few days,the LPGA's biggest stars will be right here in Hawaii. The 2018 Lotte Championship at Ko Olina starts up on Wednesday, and Punahou-product Michelle Wie -- off to her best career start -- will be one of the players fighting for her share of the $2 million purse. Lotte is not just an opportunity for Wie to add to her earnings in 2018, but also a chance to pay it forward in her home state.
In just a few days,the LPGA's biggest stars will be right here in Hawaii. The 2018 Lotte Championship at Ko Olina starts up on Wednesday, and Punahou-product Michelle Wie -- off to her best career start -- will be one of the players fighting for her share of the $2 million purse.
Lotte is not just an opportunity for Wie to add to her earnings in 2018, but also a chance to pay it forward in her home state.
Before she was the world's superstar, Michelle Wie was Hawaii's own junior golf phenom.
"I remember the first time I saw michelle. I walked out on the fairway. And there's this tall girl that towered over all the other kids. And she's like 60 yards ahead of the fairway after a drive. That's got to be Michelle," says Greg Nichols, Ko Olina Golf Club Director and PGA General Manager.
"It was a question among the committee, 'I can't believe she's only 10 years-old, and I said, 'No, she's only 10 years-old. But look at her. Look how far she hits the ball and how great she is,'" says Mary Bea Porter-King, Co-Founder of the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association,
A 25-year LPGA Tour veteran and pioneer in junior golf, Porter-King was a KEY figure in untapping Wie's potential.
"Michelle has certainly taken the opportunity that she was given, and has created quite a career, and we're all very proud of her every time she tees it up," says Porter-King.
"Junior golf wouldn't be where it is today without mary bea," says Nichols.
Almost two decades later, it's Wie's turn to give back.
"It's really is neat to see Michelle be able to be in the position now to be able to carry on the work that mary bea and others have started. Maybe michelle will be the Mary Bea. In 20 years from now, she'll be looking back, and there'd be another little girl taking her place," says Nichols.
Following the Lotte, the five-time LPGA champion will host the 4th annual "Wie Loves Ping Pong" tournament. Monies raised will benefit the Hawaii State Junior a Golf Association, the organization she came up from.
"It's turned into a wonderful event. It's like a prize fight. We set it up with all the tables and the lights on there, and big scoreboards. It's such a fun event. And it all goes to a great cause. We raise money that go back to raise college scholarships for our juniors," says Nichols.
"Michelle's come second three times. So this is gonna be the year."
Before all the fun and games though, Wie will be keeping her eye on the prize.
Wie won her thirdLPGA Tour title in 2014 at the Lotte.
"She knows this course better than any other player. She's always picked to win this event. And everybody wants to see her win. And to see her finally win and break through here was just an incredible moment."
Marquee pros Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Brooke Henderson will take the greens this year, but the limelight is all Wie's.
"She draws the gallery. She has the tiger effect on women's golf," says Porter-King.
"Michelle's been a great inspiration to all those kids. They really look up to her. And she is a great role model for them. Every year when they come out. You gotta see her fans, these little girls, they all have pictures of on their t-shirts and stuff. And it's really cool to see her give back to the next generation of future michelles perhaps," says Nichols.
"The 7th annual Lotte Championship tees off next Wednesday.