Michelle Wie West is proud to have blazed her own trail. No one in the history of the game has had a path quite like hers. A history maker, a prodigy, a creative marvel, Wie West commanded a presence in the game with her unique skillset, towering physical presence and daring exploits against the men. As a teen, she was as inspirational as she was controversial, a player many believed would become the Tiger Woods of the LPGA.
And now, as she prepares to fully transition away from the LPGA, Wie West’s legacy in the game is yet unfinished. The 32-year-old mom told Golfweek that she plans to compete in next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles and will then step away from the tour, with only next year’s Women’s Open at Pebble Beach remaining on her competitive golf calendar. Husband Jonnie West has volunteered to caddie at Pebble next July.
She won’t call it a retirement. After all, look at Annika Sorenstam, who will compete in her first major championship in 13 years in Southern Pines, North Carolina, at age 51.
“I’m definitely not ruling anything out,” Wie West said.
Michelle Wie of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning in the final round of the 69th U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 on June 22, 2014, in Pinehurst, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
After more than two decades of competing in the spotlight, Wie West, who gave birth to daughter Makenna on June 19, 2020, said her body can’t keep up anymore. When she teed it up in her only LPGA event of 2022 at the Hilton Grand Tournament of Champions in January, the first day felt great but it was a struggle physically thereafter (71-78-78-81).
“At times, if I do play a lot of golf,” she said, “I’m just in bed. Or I can’t lift (Makenna) up, and that scared me.”
Injuries have plagued Wie West her entire career, and she has entered a phase of life where she doesn’t want to put in the hours of rehab and practice that’s required to compete full time.
Wie West said she’s most proud of the fact that she earned her Stanford degree while competing on the LPGA (winning twice while in school!), and that she captured a U.S. Women’s Open title. Those were her two biggest dreams.
“Because I accomplished both of those, I think I feel very happy in my decision now,” she said. “I think if I hadn’t won the U.S. Open, I’d still be out there competing week to week trying to get that U.S. Open win.”
One thing Wie West stressed about in particular, however, was the call she feared from Nike that would end her contract after she stopped playing.
“I was definitely waiting for the heartbreaking call that Nike wouldn’t want to work with me,” she said, “but it was the complete opposite.”
Instead, Wie West has extended her partnership with the brand for five more years. She’ll be an athlete collaborator, getting more involved in design and the “nitty gritty.”
She’s now part of the Nike Athlete Think Tank, a group of female athletes – including Serena Williams, Sabrina Ionescu, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Simone Manuel – who have come together to help the brand break down barriers in women’s sport.
Wie West’s passions include awareness around sustainability, equal pay, maternity and postpartum.
“It seems like it’s been a couple years coming where I’ve been slowly doing things that I’ve always wanted to do, but never had time to do,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun to learn and grow into areas that I always wanted to grow into.”
Omega, another early sponsor of Wie West’s, is also staying with her for this next phase of life. Other partnerships include MGM, Pitchbook, Berde Golf, Sportsbox.ai, Tonal, Blueland and LA Golf. (She is invested in LA Golf, Sportsbox.ai, Tonal and Blueland.)
Fourteen-year-old Michelle Wie talks to the press Thursday, January 15, 2004, at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Playing in a PGA Tour event for the first time, Wie shot a two-over-par 72 in the opening round. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Wie West first made national headlines when she became the youngest player to ever qualify for a USGA amateur championship at age 10. She’d go on to become the youngest player to ever qualify for an LPGA event at age 12, the youngest to win an adult USGA championship at age 13 and the youngest to make the cut at an LPGA major when played her way into the last group of the 2003 Kraft Nabisco (now the Chevron) thanks to a third-round 66.
It was her adventures against the men, however, that truly made the 6-foot phenom with the 300-yard drives a household name. In 2004, Wie West shot 68 at the Sony Open, the lowest round ever recorded by a woman at a PGA Tour event. She missed the cut by a single stroke.
She’d go on to compete in seven more PGA Tour tournaments and advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links in her quest to play the Masters. The winner of the now-defunct USGA tournament traditionally earned an invitation to Augusta, Georgia.
Stacy Lewis, runner-up at Pinehurst in 2014, often wondered why Wie West chose to play against the men growing up. She finally asked when the pair were practicing together when they both lived in Jupiter, Florida.
Growing up in Hawaii, Wie West told Lewis, she played against the guys all the time. There weren’t a lot of female amateurs to compete against, so when the prospect of playing on the men’s tour came about, it made sense to her.
“Her reasoning is really quite funny because it makes sense in her head,” Lewis said. “She doesn’t look at it the way the rest of us look at it. She had this child-like perspective. She didn’t realize how big the world was.”
Seemingly everywhere Wie West showed up in those early days, something sensational followed. At times, it was a spectacular fail.
Many wondered if a more traditional route would’ve resulted in a World No. 1 ranking and a boatload of titles. She steps away from the LPGA with five victories, her most recent coming in 2018.
Michelle Wie gives a piggy back to Danielle Kang of Team USA during the afternoon fourball matches of The Solheim Cup at Des Moines Golf and Country Club on August 18, 2017, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Wie West doesn’t look back at what-ifs. Instead, she views her unique and sometimes crazy path as a positive.
“I don’t have any regrets because I feel like I’ve always learned from every mistake that I’ve made,” she said. “I feel like even if it was a huge major fail, at least it makes for a good story now.”
And because she took chances then, Wie West likes to think that it has given her more confidence to take calculated risks now. She’s certainly not scared to make a mistake.
“I am living life to the fullest,” she said.
Still on her own terms.