HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - If it seems as if Michelle Wie has been around forever, consider that this is the seventh year she has played in LPGA Tour events.
But Wie remains a teenager, albeit just for four more months, as she turns 20 in October. And the Hawaiian native remains one of the biggest attractions in women's golf, with fans - and the LPGA administration - looking forward to what they hope will be the first of many victories.
The LPGA is seeking sponsors in a brutal economy for its 2010 schedule and beyond, and its officials trust that Wie can attract attention by realizing the vast potential she exhibited when she played in her first women's professional event at the age of 12 and in several competitions with men.
Speaking yesterday at the McDonald's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock, Wie seemed to appreciate her role in helping the LPGA flourish but preferred to group herself with the tour's other young stars.
"It's important for all of us to play really well and come together to create a really good brand," she said. "That's what sells tournaments and everything. I think we have a lot of personalities out here that the fans love. We have really good up-and-coming players.
"We have a lot of different types of characters. We're not all the same type of players. We have short hitters and long hitters. We've got a lot of different nationalities. I think it's great that we're not all the same. We all bring something different to the table."
Even though tomorrow's first round will mark her 48th career start in the LPGA, Wie is going through some growing pains as a tour rookie. She is 16th on the money list, boasts three top-10 finishes in eight events, and stands second behind South Korea's Jiyai Shin in the rookie-of-the-year standings.
Her best finish in a major came in her debut at the 2005 McDonald's LPGA Championship, where she finished second while still an amateur, the first ever to play in what had been an exclusive event for LPGA members. She has six top-10 finishes in majors.
But she still is seeking her first win on the LPGA Tour. She has not won an event since taking the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links title in 2003 at age 13.
"I've been learning a lot about my game and how I should play," she said. "You know, the first win is always a tricky one. It will happen when it's happening. All I can do is try my hardest out there, which I enjoy. I think that's all that matters for me."
After all this time in the spotlight, Wie still has no idea why her accomplishments and her failures still fascinate the golf public.
"I have no idea, I don't know," she said with a giggle. "I feel very grateful for that, I guess. I'm thankful people support me. . . . Hopefully I'll start playing really well, and it will be good stuff."
The good stuff could start tomorrow. Bulle Rock was pelted with thunderstorms yesterday, and the 6,641-yard course is expected to play long. The 6-foot Wie ranks sixth on the tour in driving distance at 272.0 yards.
She also has had streaks of good putting, a part of her game that has held her back, so being confident on the greens will be a big factor.
"I still feel like I have to improve a lot," she said. "I feel I'm nowhere near where I could be. I still feeling like I'm learning something new about the game every day."