POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 17, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 01:46 a.m. HST, Jan 17, 2011
Wherever you are, Michelle Wie, thanks from the bottom of Steve Marino's expanding wallet.
An older, wiser, more grizzled Marino had reason to take pause after exiting the 18th hole yesterday at Waialae Country Club and express appreciation for their chance pairing four years ago here.
About 484,000 reasons, really, the amount of one of his most lucrative paychecks and best finishes to date.
Some of the toughness that grew out of that eye-opening 2007 experience paid off with a share of second place in the Sony Open in Hawaii, where Marino shared runner-up honors with Tim Clark at 14-under-par 266, two strokes back of Mark Wilson, when his late charge, three birdies in the final four holes, fell short.
Still, it was a far cry from 2007, when Marino, a raw, freshly minted 26-year-old rookie right out of qualifying school, PGA Tour card in hand, showed up for his debut — and found himself paired with the then-17-year-old Wie. Not to mention an accompanying sea of constant onlookers and suffocating media.
"I remember being pretty nervous coming here for the first time, and then I get paired with Michelle Wie on top of that," Marino said.
So much for easing into the business or adopting a low profile. This was something they didn't teach in Q-School.
It was an experience that, at the time, he had compared to being "kind of thrown into the lion's den."
But for all his trepidation and taut nerves, Marino not only survived it, finishing in a tie for 34th, but won points with the gallery for the aplomb with which he handled the pairing. He joked with her, encouraged her and, in the process, steadied his own nerves.
Looking back, Marino was able to say, "In a way I think that actually helped me, my first event on the PGA Tour, getting paired with Michelle Wie. There were so many people around, I think it was good for me to experience something like that right off the bat, and it gave me some confidence to realize that I handled it well and I made the cut and I didn't get overwhelmed by the situation. So, yeah, I think it was definitely a good thing for me. That was a big confidence booster for me."
When he has returned to Waialae, it has been with the confidence of one who has endured pretty much the toughest the place could throw at him. A day's rain delay? A 36-hole final day yesterday?
He still recalls bits and pieces of their rounds. "To be honest, I was thinking about Michelle hooking her tee shot into the net on No. 1 (hole)," Marino said. "I don't know why I thought about it, but I was just hoping it wouldn't happen to me."
There was one thing he didn't take away from their rounds together, however. He said he asked Wie, then under an endorsement contract to Sony, for a PlayStation 3. Wie told him she couldn't get him one.
No problem, with what he learned and has applied from the experience he can now buy plenty of his own.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.