ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — Michelle Wie has enjoyed a week full of celebration and national attention since finally winning her first major championship in the U.S. Women’s Open.
The most recognizable name in women’s golf danced with her trophy and appeared on the morning television circuit, taking in the rewards after beating top-ranked Stacy Lewis by a stroke Sunday at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
“It feels great, but I don’t know how people in showbiz do it,” Wie said about the attention.
Wie received congratulatory messages from Arnold Palmer and Condoleezza Rice, among others, as well as flowers from Adam Sandler.
“I feel like that’s the biggest prize in golf, getting flowers from Happy Gilmore,” Wie joked.
Celebration aside, Wie will return to play Friday in the NW Arkansas Championship. And she’ll do it in former Arkansas star Lewis’ backyard at Pinnacle Country Club.
Lewis, a two-time winner who also has four runner-up finishes, nearly chased down Wie during the final round last week. She shot a 66, bolstered by eight birdies, before congratulating Wie — her training and practice partner in Florida — as she walked off the 18th green.
The duo will once again headline this week’s event, and not only because of their back-to-back tee times Friday.
While Wie’s popularity follows her wherever she goes on the LPGA Tour, Lewis’ star never shines more brightly than this week each year.
Pinnacle Country Club is approximately 20 minutes north of Fayetteville, where Lewis was a four-time All-American with the Razorbacks. The Texan embraces her college roots and party-like atmosphere at the event each year, handing out Arkansas memorabilia and leading the crowd in calls of “Woo Pig Sooie.”
“I don’t think there’s any other place on tour that supports someone individually like this tournament supports me,” Lewis said. “There’s no one else that has it.”
Lewis earned a rain-shortened unofficial win at the NW Arkansas Championship as an amateur at Arkansas in 2007. She was in contention last year before settling for third place behind winner Inbee Park, but that didn’t dampen the pro-Razorbacks crowds then — or this week.
“I joke with Stacy that it’s the one tournament I don’t want to play with you,” said Wie, also the winner this year in her home state of Hawaii. “Because it just gets so crazy.”
Nine out of the top 10 players in the world are entered in the tournament, with Wie’s Friday afternoon group with So Yeon Ryu and Paula Creamer following Lewis’ threesome with Lydia Ko and Jessica Korda.
Park won the tournament with a 4-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole against Ryu last year, and she will open Friday morning with Cristie Kerr and Azahara Munoz.
Whoever wins this week will once again have to overcome the pro-Lewis crowd, while Lewis is once again faced with living up to the expectations of her adopted state.
“Sometimes you just want to sit there and have dinner and not worry about it, but that’s just not the case here this week, at least for me,” Lewis said. “I’m just trying to be patient with it but at the same time enjoy it because nobody else on tour gets what I get here.”