The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. - As hard as it is to believe, 10 years have passed since Michelle Wie made her debut at the Shore in the ShopRite LPGA Classic. She was a 13-year-old wunderkind seemingly destined to become a dominant figure in golf.

Wie hasn't reached those high expectations, with just two victories in eight years on the LPGA Tour. She has struggled with her game since the start of last season, but she showed signs of breaking out Friday in the opening round of the $1.5 million ShopRite event on the Bay Course at Seaview.

Wie tied a season low with a 3-under-par 68 and trailed co-leaders Amanda Blumenherst and Moriya Jutanugarn by 2 strokes on a very warm and sunny day.

While rather businesslike in her description of her round, only her fourth in the 60s in 30 rounds this year, Wie smiled broadly when recounting her first time here, saying "I can't believe it's 10 years already.

"I remember just being in awe," she said. "You just look up to these players when you're growing up, and you're actually warming up next to them on the driving range. It's a pretty cool feeling to have. I'm so grateful for everything from the sponsors, all the experiences they let me have. It's pretty great."

Wie, who played her first LPGA event in 2002 at the age of 12, posted seven top-10 finishes in Tour majors before enrolling at Stanford in 2007 and limiting her golf schedule. She graduated with a degree in communications in June 2012.

As for how she felt as a teenager about her planned career path, Wie, who turned pro in 2005, said, "I think nothing really goes exactly the way you plan.

"There may be little hiccups in the way and little adjustments along the way, and I think I did that," she said. "College always was in my game plan. I always wanted to go to Stanford, and I achieved one of my biggest dreams. ... Of all the experiences I've had, good and bad, I feel like I've learned from them, so I'm very grateful."

Wie closed strong Friday with birdies on 16 and 17, her fourth and fifth birdies of the day. She said the key was staying patient.

"I was really just thinking one shot at a time, not really thinking too far ahead or getting ahead of myself," she said. "I think I did a good job of that, and I really have to do that for the next two days."

Blumenherst, 26, a three-time NCAA player of the year, and the 18-year-old Jutanugarn, currently the top rookie on tour, posted the day's low rounds of 66 and finished 1 stroke ahead of defending champion Stacy Lewis.

Blumenherst kickstarted her round with an eagle 3 at the third hole, birdied four holes after that and made a nice par save at No. 18. Jutanugarn was just 1-under through 11 holes but finished with a flourish - birdies at the 12th, 15th, 16th, and 18th.


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