ROGERS, Ark. - Michelle Wie may have arrived on the scene when she played the Sony Open at age 14, but she realized she made it in the golfing world this week.
It wasn’t the whirlwind NYC media tour or the appearances on the Today Show, Live with Kelly and Michael, Fox & Friends, or CNN that sealed it. Walking through Manhattan in five-inch heels, an entourage following, and the U.S. Women’s Open trophy in hand while people gawked didn’t do it either. Nor did congratulatory texts from Barbara Nicklaus or Condoleezza Rice or Nike’s Phil Knight.
“I got congratulatory flowers, this huge flower vase from Adam Sandler, which is awesome,” said Wie incredulously. “I feel like that’s the biggest prize in golf, getting flowers from Happy Gilmore.”
Wie had met Sandler when she was just 14, playing in the Pro Junior Challenge at the Sony Open. His caddy on that day was the same he had in the movie. They weren’t even off the first hole that day before Sandler jumped back into character, happy gilmoreing it off the first tee. “Rob Schneider was yelling inappropriate things all day,” said Wie with a laugh, recalling back 10 years ago.
There were other congratulations that made an indelible mark this week, too.
“Got a letter from Arnold Palmer, which I thought was really cute because he like writes me a letter and then his assistant like emails me the attachment because I don’t think he knows how to use email,” said Wie.
Whatever it is, Wie has it, and few – if any – on tour can replicate it. Stacy Lewis, the No. 1 player in the world, calls her “the biggest star on our tour.” For her part, Wie deflects those labels, content to take the tour to new heights with her game.
“I just feel so proud to be part of a tour that we’re rising. I feel like we have a lot of pride in our Tour and the direction that it’s going,” she said. “It just feels great. Hopefully better things will happen, more great things, and I’m really excited for the future.”
The future for Wie is now – and that is on the golf course, not in front of a camera. She enjoyed the two day soiree into show business but was ready to get back to her line of work.
“I mean, it feels great, but I don’t know how people in show business do it,” Wie said. “I was just so happy to get on a plane to Arkansas so I could just play some golf already. It was a lot of fun, but I’m really happy to be here. I feel extremely lucky.”
The alacrity to get back on the tee is driven by her experience Sunday. The more she wins, the higher her profile will rise, but it’s her golf that’s brought her back. And she knows to stay on top of the women’s golfing world, the wins and top-10 finishes have to continue.
“I feel so extremely lucky just to have a chance to make an impact, make a positive impact to hopefully leave the tour in a better place. But I think obviously actions speak a lot louder than words,” she said. “This was extremely motivating for me, it makes me want to go out there and work harder, and hopefully I just want to keep doing it again and again because winning was extremely fun.”
For someone who has been in the public eye so long, this win had been expected since she was 13 and won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. But it never came. It was admittedly difficult to handle the spotlight at those young ages, and if her first major win had happened earlier, she’s not sure she would have enjoyed it as much as she did Sunday. That moment, embracing her mother on the 18th green with her father looking on, the team that’s taken more scrutiny than almost any in golf, felt like vindication that this was the path Wie was supposed to walk all along.
“I think that moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I mean, it just – it felt like it came a complete circle, full circle. We kind of shared that moment when I won the Public Links when I was 13, she was there, we both were crying,” said Wie. “The same exact scene after I won the U.S. Open and it was just crazy how everything happens.
“I can already feel my mom crying on 18 walking up to the green. I knew how much she wanted this, how much my parents wanted this for me. It was an amazing feeling.”
A feeling Wie hopes not to repeat the wait for again.