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Michelle Wie West calls winning the U.S. Women’s Open life-changing. In this next chapter, will she be a game-changer?

SAN FRANCISCO – The first time Michelle Wie West left her daughter to go to work she cried. That’s common, after all. In Wie West’s case, she was headed to the first tee for Round 1 of the Kia Classic, her first official spherical on the LPGA in 643 days. Wie West was staying on property at the Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, California, and when Bo Wie got here out on the balcony with granddaughter McKenna to provide a wave, Wie West broke down crying once more.

“I was like what is happening to me?” recalled Wie West. “Hormones?”

She promptly hit her next shot into the water.

Jane Park first met Wie West throughout a rain delay at the 2002 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, New Jersey. She invited Wie West to play a sport of spoons in the locker room.

“She was kind of sitting there alone,” stated Park. “We all knew that she was a prodigy. I think she just felt like the odd one out because she was new to the scene.”

Wie West, 31, gave beginning to Kenna two months earlier than Park had daughter Grace. They textual content usually, with Park checking to see if a new rash or a new sound is regular. Park was paired with Gerina Piller at the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open in April and requested how lengthy it took earlier than she felt again to her former thoughts and physique after giving beginning to son A.J.

Piller stated virtually 2 ½ years.

“She said ‘You just need to remember that you made a freakin’ life in your body,’ ” stated Park. “None of these other girls are thinking ‘Did I bring enough diapers?’ in the middle of the round.”

The 2021 U.S. Women’s Open is being performed quarter-hour away from Wie West’s residence in San Francisco. She didn’t get on the market a lot forward of the championship as a result of the Lake Course appeared too taxing to hold her bag and push Kenna. That’s how she usually practices at Lake Merced. Kenna tracks each ball.

Wie West known as her 2014 U.S. Women’s Open victory at Pinehurst “life-changing” and remembers each second of the day.

“I feel I carried myself differently from that moment forward,” she stated, “because of that self-validation.”

The floodgates by no means opened after that first main title. An LPGA victory in Singapore is all that has adopted, bringing her profession victory whole to 5. Still, she stays the solely family identify on the LPGA in America.

She’s not the similar individual she was again then, after all. Couldn’t be, actually, after getting married and giving beginning and placing household above all else.

The shift started two years in the past, she stated, after she stepped away from the tour attributable to harm. Wie West fell on her left wrist whereas operating backwards at age 16, fracturing three bones. Three years later, whereas working towards down in Florida, she rested her proper hand on the high her golf bag and a membership smashed down on it, leading to a bone contusion.

Physically, it’s been a nice battle ever since.

This most up-to-date break from the tour helped Wie West see the sport and her function in a totally different gentle. She ran for a Player Director place on the LPGA board, approaching at a essential time as the tour employed its next commissioner.

“Now,” she stated, “I have the mental and emotional capacity to see things from a broader perspective.”

Husband Jonnie West and his legendary father, Jerry, play a function in that, too. It was Jonnie who helped pen Wie West’s response to Rudy Giuliani’s disturbing story on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast last February.

“I knew what I wanted to say,” stated Wie West, “but I just couldn’t get it out. (Jonnie) told me, you have such a great opportunity to say something that really matters right now.”

In the previous, Wie West admits, she would’ve most likely stayed quiet.

Justin Thomas launched the couple, and so they shortly realized that that they had many mutual associates. The pair linked shortly earlier than Wie West went on a ladies’ journey to the Bahamas and she couldn’t cease speaking about him. She quickly flew to San Francisco to see him on her solution to up Portland.

Friend Jeehae Lee, a former LPGA participant and Yale grad who’s now CEO of Sportsbox AI, spent a transient time as Wie West’s supervisor and noticed the couple work together in these early days in her San Francisco front room.

“The first time they met in person they seemed so comfortable with each other,” stated Lee. “It wasn’t being too polite or hiding behind something. They were just comfortable being themselves, which I felt was such a good sign. … They really are each other’s go-tos.”

Walking outdoors the Chase Center, residence of the Golden State Warriors, Wie West marveled at the amount of cash that’s poured into males’s skilled sport. She was shocked the first time she went to a PGA Tour occasion.

When folks argue that LPGA purses are decrease due to decrease viewership, it’s an unfair comparability, she stated, due to how a lot is invested.

“The men’s sports create a better product just on the number of cameras alone,” she stated. “Our game looks slower, our players look slower when in fact, we’re not slower at all. It’s because we don’t have the ability to switch back and forth, so you end up watching the players’ entire routine, which people now don’t have the attention span for that.”

Wie West dabbled in on-camera work when she was away from the tour, giving her much more perception into the discrepancies between the males’s and girls’s sport. Back-to-back U.S. Opens at Pinehurst in 2014 had been eye-opening in that regard as effectively.

Wie West famous that in participant conferences, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan constantly drilled into their heads that simply because they’re taking part in for a $1 million first-place prize now, nothing is assured – “you need to do the work.”

She finds her father-in-law’s {hardware} at Prime 44 West, a steakhouse at the Greenbrier that honors the West Virginia native, inspiring however not as a lot as his tales from the previous. She was shocked to study that when Jerry West first joined the league, everybody in the NBA had a second job. Courtside tickets at Lakers video games went for $7.50.

“Looking back at our 13 founders and knowing what they did,” stated Wie West, “that’s not that long ago either.”

Wie West by no means pictured herself taking part in the LPGA as a mother. Having a daughter modified that. Everything she does now could be with an eye fixed towards constructing a world that’s higher for Kenna.

Living in the Bay Area, Lee says, provides Wie West much more of a platform to tackle social points. Traveling the world with the towering star gave Lee a distinctive perspective on her fame.

“It’s one thing to be in Toledo, Ohio, with her,” stated Lee, “versus Singapore or Seoul, South Korea.”

So many stares in Tokyo, with followers asking for autographs or footage on the streets, at airports and in resort lobbies. Even at a current USGA video shoot at one in every of Wie West’s native favorites, Dumpling Time, close to the Chase area, a couple from Hawaii requested to take a {photograph}.

“Honestly, I just remember feeling somewhat overwhelmed and protective,” Lee stated of the moments when it was tough to get by way of crowds. “I was somewhat of a bodyguard at some points.”

Lately, it’s been hectic for various causes.

Michelle Wie West and Kira Okay. Dixon as seen throughout a USGA video shoot at Dumpling Time in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Copyright USGA/Jed Jacobsohn)

Wie West wakes up Kenna round 7 a.m. (until Kenna wakes her up first). They hang around. When Kenna takes a nap, Wie West works out. They hang around some extra. During the second nap, Wie West eats lunch and cleans the home. When Kenna wakes up, she takes her to Lake Merced to play six holes or to Stanford to apply.

Then it’s again to feed her dinner, give her a tub, put her to mattress and make dinner for the adults. She’s been into making sushi recently and has a provider ship recent fish to the home.

Wie West lately hosted a taco evening. She had two totally different fillings, Lee famous: Korean barbecue beef and shrimp. Nothing on Wie West’s desk comes out of a jar. She even makes her personal salsa.

“She loves having people over, and she is so domesticated,” stated Lee. “She will just whip up something amazing in the kitchen without having to go grocery shopping that day. I raid her pantry and fridge like nobody’s business.”

Wie West’s dad and mom have been staying with them recently to assist. Five weeks out from the USWO, she felt that she wanted to dedicate extra time to apply.

To do this although, she additionally has to work by way of the guilt.

Juli Inkster, LPGA Hall of Famer and mom of two, stated it took a very long time to discover ways to steadiness motherhood with what it takes to win at the highest stage.

“When you leave them for a week,” stated stated, “you’re thinking ‘Oh my God, are they going to remember me when I get back?’ ”

Laura Baugh performed the tour as a single mom of seven, touring in a van. She breastfed all of them and even home-schooled.

“You’ll never have enough time to be the mom you want,” she stated, “and you’ll never have enough time to be the great putter than you want to be. You will never be enough in your eyes … you do the best you can.”

Michelle Wie Mother's Day

Michelle Wie Mother’s Day

Michelle Wie celebrates together with her mom Bo on the 18th inexperienced after her two-stroke victory at 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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Wie West hasn’t competed on the LPGA since the LA Open in late April, dropping out of the LPGA match play occasion in Las Vegas attributable to household commitments.

Regardless of how a lot Wie West performs in the future, Lee is aware of that her buddy will proceed to maneuver the needle in several methods, utilizing her huge community out and in of golf to result in change.

“She can use that platform to take issues head on,” stated Lee, “to speak boldly about topics that people are too afraid to speak out about. … She can bring money, she can bring attention, influencers – both in and out of golf – in a way that very few other athletes can.”

One day, Wie West hopes Kenna appears again on the present pay hole between the genders in golf the similar method she views that $7.50 court-side Lakers ticket – completely wild.

Perhaps Wie West’s biggest legacy is but to return.


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