Paolo AugettiESPN4 minutes to read
Pebble Beach, Calif. — Michelle Wee West has no problem admitting it: She thought about her final walk to the 18th hole at Pebble Beach — the last time of her career — a lot. She fantasized about it, dreamed about it, even idealized it.
“Gosh, I hope you’re in the last group with everyone watching,” Wee West said Tuesday. “That would be incredible.”
As far as she was able, Wie West wrote her final script by making the decision to make this year’s US Women’s Open at this historic venue her last ever competitive tournament. Yet she knows all too well the unpredictability of the sport that has dominated her life for the past 18 years.
That’s why there’s no more drafting her exits she can do once the ball is in the air on Thursday. She’s made her choice — a decision she describes as “difficult” — and now has to come to terms with the bottom line it brings.
“When I finished Pine Needles, I was like, ‘Oh, but I have a Pebble next year,'” Wee West said of last year’s US Open, where she announced her retirement plans. “There is no pebble next year.”
Wie West didn’t express regrets, but she did talk about wants and desires. She always said she would quit once she had kids. She now has a young child and hasn’t played a real, full LPGA Tour schedule since 2018, but the sport she’s played her entire life still has a talking appeal to her.
“I really, really wanted to play for longer. I really wanted — especially after it was McKenna and being a girl, I really wanted to play for longer,” Wee West said. “In a perfect world I wish I was still on tour and playing. Unfortunately, I just had to make a difficult decision with my body. It’s hard. It’s hard being a mother here. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. I just had to make a tough medical decision.” And also a personal decision.”
On Tuesday, Wie West played a practice round with fellow Stanford golf alum Rose Chang and her family and friends who watched her every shot at Pebble Beach while her husband, Jonnie West, bagged her and her daughter watched the seals in Stillwater Cove below. The pairing and setup was fitting for the metaphorical passing of the torch between Wie West and Zhang, who is heralded as the next face of the ladies’ game. The two Stanford golfers became close together, heading in different directions of their careers.
“It’s definitely an emotional week for me,” she said. “I just realized everything I’m doing, I’m doing it for the last time. My sprint workouts, you’d better believe I’m not going to do another workout for the rest of my life if I don’t need to. So all those things I’m doing for the last time, my last workouts, Get in line, write in my yardage book.”
The melancholy that Wie West is talking about is completely invisible as it plays. Instead, she focuses on her game, what the ball does, what kind of shot the hole requires to be putt or how much she puts. But in no time, she can also snap out of it and talk to a friend, member of the media, or relative as if she’s not in the middle of practicing for the last tournament of her career. For her, this is what enjoying the end looks like.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I’m incredibly lucky for the journey I’ve been on and the family I’ve built,” Wee West said. “It’s been a really great week to be here.”
She said her competitive campaign is still there. In fact, it is both harder to replicate off-course in other ways of her life but also easier to let go of in her daily routine.
“When you’re a professional athlete, the highs are very high, and the lows are very low,” Wee West said. “Honestly, over the past year, I haven’t felt the highs, but I also haven’t felt the lows. It’s weird how pretty normal every day is. You go out there and eat three meals, take care of your daughter, and at night, you watch Netflix. Every day is what fine.”
It appears that Wie West has not only made peace with the next stage in her life, but has also fully embraced it. While the clubs are hiding in the “darkest corner of my garage,” a pickle ball with her pair will help fill up your adrenaline tank just a bit. She said that her garden at home needs to be taken care of. her daughter too. And as far as golf goes, she remains firm that she will stick around, help and support her and do everything she can to ensure that her legacy will outpace her ultimate power.
“I still want to help the tour grow, and women’s sports in general, and do everything I can to continue to empower women, and close the pay gap, whether that’s in or out of sports,” Wee West said. “I think we have to lead by example, and I hope I can be a part of that.”
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