When Michelle Wie West came back to the LPGA Tour after giving birth to her first child Makenna in 2020, she made it clear that she hoped to show her daughter what it meant to be a working mom on Tour. But each family circumstance is unique. While the LPGA Tour, through its partnership with the Smuckers LPGA Child Development Center, offers moms every opportunity to balance work with motherhood, others choose to step away to raise their kids.
Wie West appears to have chosen the latter. In a story reported by Beth Ann Nichols at GolfWeek, Wie West has said that she will be stepping away from the game after the U.S. Women’s Open, which will take place June 2-5 at Pine Needles Resort and Lodge in Southern Pines, North Carolina, an easy walk from Pinehurst No.2 where Wie West won the same championship in 2014.
Wie West told Nichols, “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.”
That 2014 championship was Wie West’s only major and one of five victories on the LPGA Tour, two of which came while she was a full-time student at Stanford University. It was an exceptional career by any measure, but Wie West was constantly plagued by injuries and expectations. Between her back, legs and wrists, Wie West was forced to endure numerous rehabs and swing refinements in order to compete. When she tearfully walked away from the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, an event where she iced her wrist through two rounds, many observers questioned whether we would ever see her strike another shot.
To her credit, Wie West returned to competition in 2021, although at the 2022 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, she admitted to feeling some additional pains. “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 told Nichols.
Her other enemy has been the unrealistic expectations and white-hot spotlight that has followed Wie West since she was a young girl. At age 10, she became the youngest player ever to quality for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, a record that has since been broken by Epson Tour player Allisen Corpuz.
Teenagers at tour events is a common site now, but Wie West was a female phenom at the height of the Tiger Woods era, which brought its own set of challenges. She was the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA Tour event at age 12 (a record since broken by Ariya Jutanugarn) and the youngest ever winner of an adult USGA Championship when she captured the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at age 13.
That same year, 2003, Wie West made the cut in the Chevron Championship and shot a 66 on Saturday, which put her in the final group on Sunday. Her powerful swing during that period was likened to Ernie Els, which earned her the nickname “The Big Wiesie,” a play off Els’ moniker “The Big Easy,” but something that, in hindsight, should never have been said or written about a 13-year-old girl.
To her credit, through ups and downs, controversies and career highlights, Wie West has remained a good friend and a thoughtful voice on the LPGA Tour. She was the creator and spearhead behind the LPGA Hoodie for Golf project that raised money for Renee Powell’s Clearview Legacy Foundation. And she continues her work as part of the Nike Athlete Think Tank, where she helps the international brand break down barriers in women’s sports.
Because of her 2014 victory, Wie West is eligible to play in the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach, near her home and close to the Stanford campus. Her husband, Jonnie West, a basketball executive with the Golden State Warriors, has already offered to caddie for her that week at Pebble Beach.
“I’m definitely not ruling anything out,” she said.