ORLANDO, FLORIDA | The phases of a life don’t often play out on a screen for all to see. “The Truman Show,” while advancing Jim Carrey and Laura Linney’s careers, was considered a psychological fantasy with a cautionary moral message. Life isn’t a TikTok video. We evolve, we learn, we make mistakes, suffer embarrassments and have regrets, all of which mold us into wiser, calmer, and better adults.
Then there is Michelle Wie West.
Not since Shirley Temple Black went from the most famous 6-year-old on the planet to successful entrepreneur and, ultimately, ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Chief of Protocol for the United States has every jot and tiddle of a woman’s life played out at center stage the way Wie West’s has over the last quarter century. Just this past weekend former PGA Tour player Mark Lye brought up Wie West on his PGA TOUR Radio show.
“I remember standing on the range in Hawaii when Michelle was in the field at the Sony Open, watching her swing and hearing people compare her to Ernie Els,” Lye said. Then he asked the question that leaves a lot of LPGA Tour fans rolling their eyes. “Will we ever see another woman try to complete in the PGA Tour?”
That answer is twofold: Maybe. And who cares? Those who follow the LPGA Tour do not yearn for Nelly Korda to enter the John Deere Classic. We’ve been there and bought the t-shirt. Our tour offers quite enough, thank you.
Wie West was a kid back when she became the Big Wiesie. What pressure she was under. What angst she must have felt.
Those PGA Tour starts are far from her legacy. They are a sliver, a rapid blink in a life that has included five LPGA Tour wins, a major championship, four years on campus and a degree from Stanford, friendships, mentorships, business relationships, entrepreneurial ventures and now motherhood.
It is a life in full, squeezed into 32 years. Just how cerebral and well-rounded is Michelle Wie West? Her dogs are named after F. Scott Fitzgerald characters.
“My priorities have definitely shifted,” Wie West said on Tuesday at Lake Nona, two days before teeing off in the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. “Before (daughter Makenna was born) golf was my number one priority. I ate, slept, breathed, everything golf. Now it's her. The reason why I'm playing is because of her.
“But it's been really fun. It's been really fun to see her grow. She has the funniest little character, so she keeps us entertained.”
Wie West has also maintained deep friendships despite living in a spotlight that can blind many to the things that matter.
“I do have the best girl gang out there,” she said. “I just look up to them so much and they inspire me, all in very different ways. Everyone has such a different skillset in our group, so it's been really fun to get advice from people, just blast out a question in the group chat. It's amazing what kind of answers you get back.
“Mostly it's just support, nonjudgment, true support from one another. We really want to see each other succeed. I think that's what makes really good friends.
Hally Leadbetter was the catalyst for the girl group. “She's definitely the connector,” Wie West said. “I think we all met each other through Hally.” But the friendships continue.
She still sets goals, things in her mind that she wants to achieve in golf and in life. But, like everything else, those have evolved over time. “(Early in my life) if I played well, if I didn't play well, that was like the end all. I felt like my whole mood surrounded on that. But now I see (Makenna’s) smile or chase after her and everything just disappears. My main goal is to, hopefully, be a good role model for her, so that's why I'm kind of really focused on the business end of playing golf.
“I guess just want to make her proud and be a good example.
“I can't really explain it. It's like an inner feeling kind of thing. But there is really no prouder moment than watching her try something over and over again and then finally succeeding. That’s really cool to watch.”
So too will it be cool to watch Michelle this week at Lake Nona, another snippet in a life we have followed far too closely for way too long.