- American was once referred to as Tiger Woods of women’s golf.
- At the age of 13, Wie West became the youngest participant to make the cut in an LPGA tournament in 2003.
- She had five top-three finishes in major competition, though she suffered with wrist issues throughout her career and was limited in competition in recent years.
When Michelle Wie West returned to the LPGA Tour (Ladies Professional Golf Association) in 2020 after giving birth to her first child, Makenna, she stated that she wanted to show her daughter what it was like to be a working parent on Tour. However, each family’s situation is unique. While the LPGA Tour, via its partnership with the Smuckers LPGA Child Development Center, provides parents with several opportunities to balance work and motherhood, some prefer to stay at home with their children.
Wie West appears to have gone with the latter option. Wie West has announced her retirement from the game following the U.S. Women’s Open, which will be held June 2-5 at Pine Needles Resort and Lodge in Southern Pines, North Carolina, an easy walk from Pinehurst No.2, where she won the same championship in 2014.
“I think if I hadn’t won the US Open, I’d still be out there competing week to week trying to get that US Open win,” Wie West told Nichols.
That 2014 championship was Wie West’s sole major and one of five LPGA Tour victories, two of which occurred while she was a full-time student at Stanford. Injuries and expectations hampered Wie West throughout her career, which was extraordinary by any measure. Wie West had to undergo multiple rehabs and swing improvements due to injuries to her back, legs, and wrists in order to compete. Many spectators questioned if she would ever hit another shot when she tearfully walked away from the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where she iced her wrist for two rounds.
To her credit, Wie West returned to compete in 2021, but she admitted to having some additional pains at the 2022 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. “At times, if I do play a lot of golf, I’m just in bed. Or I can’t lift (Makenna) up, and that scared me,” Wie West said to Nichols.
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Her other opponent has been the unrealistic expectations and blazing limelight that have surrounded Wie West since she was a young girl. She qualified for the US Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at the age of 10, a record that has since been broken by Epson Tour player Allisen Corpuz.
Teenagers in tour tournaments are now a common site, but Wie West was a female prodigy during the Tiger Woods era, which brought her own set of challenges. She was the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA Tour event at the age of 12 (a record that has since been surpassed by Ariya Jutanugarn) and the youngest adult USGA Championship winner when she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at the age of 13.
In the same year, 2003, Wie West made the cut in the Chevron Championship, shooting a 66 on Saturday to get to the final group on Sunday. During that time, her strong swing was compared to Ernie Els, earning her the nickname “The Big Wiesie,” a play on Els’ title “The Big Easy,” but something that, in hindsight, should never have been said or written about a 13-year-old girl.
To her credit, Wie West has remained a good friend and a smart voice on the LPGA Tour despite ups and downs, scandals, and career milestones. She was the inspiration and driving force behind the LPGA Hoodie for Golf project, which raised funds for Renee Powell’s Clearview Legacy Foundation. She also works as a member of the Nike Athlete Think Tank, where she helps the multinational brand in breaking barriers in women’s sports.
Because of her victory in 2014, Wie West is entitled to compete in the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach, which is close to her home and the Stanford campus. Her husband, Jonnie West, a Golden State Warriors basketball executive, has already committed to caddie for her that week at Pebble Beach.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” she stated.