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South Korea gives rapturous welcome to Wie

By Staff
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SEOUL, Apr 29 (Reuters) American golfer Michelle Wie received a rapturous reception today when she arrived in South Korea, her parents' home country, for her latest brush with male opposition next week.

The Hawaiian-born 16-year-old, the top draw at the Asian Tour's SK Telecom Open at the Sky 72 Golf Club in Incheon starting on Thursday, was met by hundreds of reporters, camermamen and wellwishers.

''I never imagined this many people would show up to welcome me,'' Yonhap News quoted Wie as telling a news conference. ''I'm so glad to be back. I want to try lots of Korean food.

''I've practised hard for this game and really want to make the cut. If I can't, however, I'll still enjoy it.'' Wie, who tees off against the likes of home favourite K J Choi in next week's tournament, is set to appear at various charity events in the next few days, as well as throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game on Sunday.

Wie, despite her U S nationality, has overshadowed South Korean women players in popularity even as some surged to LPGA Tour title success, while the Hawaiian has gone without a major title.

Four South Koreans have now tasted major success with Pak Se-ri getting the ball rolling in 1998 and Grace Park following suit at the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The long-driving Wie will be bidding to make her first halfway cut in eight appearances against the men.

Wie, who regularly hits her drives over 300 yards, missed the cut by one stroke at the Casio World Open in Japan last November after bogeying the last two holes.

No woman has qualified for the last two rounds on one of the top-level men's tours since Babe Zaharias made the 36-hole cut at the 1945 Los Angeles Open.

REUTERS PM KN1516

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