Michelle Wie watched a shot yesterday during her practice round for the 2004 Curtis Cup at Formby Golf Club in Formby, England.

Rivals eager to
take on Wie today

The Curtis Cup begins in England
following ceremonies yesterday

MERSEYSIDE, England » As she headed back to the Formby clubhouse, it was clear that Michelle Wie was excited and ready to play the 33rd Curtis Cup.

Wie turned and high-fived a teammate, one of few expressions of feeling following yesterday's opening ceremony under ominous skies. Wie's eyes didn't water as she had predicted, and none of her teammates appeared that emotional as they braved the chilly conditions at the Formby Golf Club.

Thursday's gorgeous weather was replaced with strong winds that lowered the temperature as clouds shrouded a sun that was trying to peek out.

The American, British and Irish flags flapped in the gusts as a bundled-up crowd watched parachuters drop in to launch the 33rd Cup. A brass band played in the background of the simple ceremony, which featured themes of national pride, fierce rivalries and good sportsmanship in each of the opening speeches.

Wie was the last one introduced, and U.S. captain Martha Kirouac slightly stuttered, "Mar-Michelle Wie."

The 14-year-old golf prodigy's applause was no louder than any of the other 16 players', but several members of the crowd did murmur, "I've just got to see her play in the flesh."

They'll get that chance when Wie and Duke sophomore Brittany Lang tee off at 8:30 a.m. GMT against Anne Laing and Claire Coughlan.

The match-play championship opens today with Wie's rival-turned-friend Paula Creamer and Jane Park teeing off first at 8 a.m. against Great Britain & Ireland's Shelley McKevitt and Emma Duggleby.

In match two, the United States' Sarah Huarte and Anne Thurman take on Nicola Timmins and Danielle Masters. Not competing in the morning matches for the United States are Liz Janangelo and Erica Blasberg, both among the top-ranked college players.

"It was a gut-wrenching decision," Kirouac said. "I talked to each of the players to be sure that they were OK (about the foursomes lineup for today), and I've gotten nothing less than 150 percent support.

"I've got three more tough decisions to make before it's all done," Kirouac said. "But we're in good shape as a team. Everybody's positive and ready to go tomorrow morning."

Wie's slot was what Great Britain & Ireland captain Ada O'Sullivan anticipated, and she drew her lineup to counter Wie's position.

"It's exactly where I thought she would put Michelle," O'Sullivan said. "I would have put her there as well. I have no doubt that Michelle will be a very good 'back' player. She's used to coping with pressure."

The uber-competitive teenager was not available for comment following the opening ceremony, but Wie is sure to enjoy her position in the final foursome. The youngest player in the history of the Curtis Cup has previously confessed to performing better in pressure situations.

Laing feels the same and is not backing down from the challenge. The 29-year-old relishes the opportunity to be the first to face Wie.

"I'm definitely not going to lose any sleep over playing Michelle Wie on Saturday morning," Laing said. "Everybody on our team wants to play Michelle Wie. I'm lucky enough, along with Claire, to be in that position on the first morning."

Notes: The United States has won 23 of the last 32 Cups, including the last one, played in Pennsylvania. The Curtis Cup has had three ties. ... The GB&I team received more than 2,000 cards and notes wishing them good luck. O'Sullivan received a fax from Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance that read: "We're missing one. We have the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup, the Walker Cup. You know what to do, girls." If Great Britain & Ireland succeeds, it would be the first time America didn't possess one of the four trans-Atlantic Cups. ... B.J. Wie need not have worried about his credit card, as his economical daughter didn't purchase a thing during Thursday afternoon's shopping trip. A wise Michelle Wie decided that the unfavorable dollar-to-pound conversion made it too expensive to buy anything. ... B.J. Wie did acquiesce to his daughter's wish to take a break from English cuisine. Michelle Wie requested Chinese food on Thursday, and the Wies shared a six-dish meal with Jane Park and her parents.


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