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Len Ziehm On Golf

Wie got an early look at Kemper Lakes — when she was 11

Michelle Wie’s days as a young phenom are over. In her early years she did things very few women players ever did, competing against the best women in her mid-teenage years and later taking on the men in a few PGA Tour events that included two appearances in the John Deere Classic.

With five wins on the LPGA Tour including this year in Singapore and the U.S. Women’s Open in 2014, Wie is a veteran player and the memories of those news-making early challenges are fading.

One of Wie’s first young phenom appearances was at Kemper Lakes, when she played in the now defunct U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in 2001. Wie was just 11 years old.

“If I said I remember this golf course I would be lying,’’ she said while awaiting her 12th appearance in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. “I have a lot of great memories, except for the golf course, so I don’t know if having played here before will benefit me or not. But it is a fun fact.’’

While Wie doesn’t remember what Kemper looked like 17 years ago when it was still a public course, she does like what she’s seen in this week’s practice rounds.

“Those finishing holes are amazing,’’ she said. “They’re going to be a great challenge coming in, but it’s a great golf course overall.’’

AGELESS: Juli Inkster, at 58, is the oldest player in the field at Kemper Lakes, and she’s on a mission. Though she has won 31 tournaments and seven major championships during her LPGA career, it’d be a huge surprise if she won this week.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Inkster became the first champion of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open next month at Chicago Golf Club, however. In fact, Inkster and Scotland’s Trish Johnson figure to be the top contenders in the new tournament.

“I haven’t been playing great this year, but I’m starting to play better,’’ said Inkster. “I’m looking forward to that tournament, and I’m very excited. To win any USGA title is a feather in your cap, but to win the first one would be really nice. That tournament is 10 years too late. I wish the Patty Sheehans, Joanne Carners and Kathy Whitworths would all have a chance to compete. But, it is a step in the right direction.’’

Inkster is playing Kemper Lakes for the first time in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and she’ll get her first look at Chicago Golf Club next week.

NO ANNIKA, BUT….The legendary Annika Sorenstam, who stepped away from tournament golf 10 years ago, won’t be at Kemper Lakes where she had been the runner-up in the 1992 U.S. Amateur. Sorenstam’s sister Carlotta, however, will be one of eight LPGA teaching pros in the field.

Heading that group is Wendy Doolan, who won last year’s LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals National Championship. The others include Dr. Alison Curdt, who is a dual member of the PGA and LPGA teaching divisions. She tied for 71st competing against men in the PGA National Professionals Championship last week and became the third woman to complete all 72 holes of that tournament.

SAY CHEESE: Ariya Jutanugarn, the U.S. Women’s Open champion and No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings, has an unusual pre-shot routine that is well worth watching. She stands behind the ball and smiles before stepping up and hitting it. Her performance instructors, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, suggested it.

“I’ve been doing this for three years already,’’ said Jutanugarn. `I want to create a happy feeling before the shot. I not only just smile, but I also feel something.’’

CLUBBING: The Illinois PGA will host a Women’s Team Skills Challenge event on Thursday at Twin Orchard Country Club in Long Grove in conjunction with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Four-player teams from Biltmore, Cantigny, Cog Hill, Harborside International, Onwentsia, Ridgemoor, Ruth Lake, Sportsman’s and Twin Orchard (which will field two teams) will compete in a format similar to the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship the PGA conducts for young golfers.

HOT DOG!!! Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville, which is hosting the 118th Women’s Western Amateur this week, has another big event coming up even before it stages next month’s Illinois Women’s Open. The club will try to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest continuous line of cooked hot dogs as part of its Fourth of July celebration.

The record is 1,157 feet by Nakakyusa Kubota of Japan. Mistwood will partner with Chicago-based Vienna Beef, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The hot dogs will be lined up along Mistwood’s par-5 third hole.