LPGA Tour star Michelle Wie West, who has been out since last June with a wrist injury and is expecting her first child this summer, said she could return to competitive golf later this year.
The rescheduled U.S. Women’s Open has given Wie West, 30, something to shoot for. Originally scheduled for June, the USGA announced last month it has been moved to Dec. 10-13 at Champions Golf Club in Houston.
“Logistically, it opened my eyes and I was like, ‘Whoa, like maybe it could happen,'” said Wie West, whose one major title was at the 2014 U.S. Open. “I’m not making a decision right now, but my ears definitely perked up when I heard that the U.S. Open is going to be in December. Suddenly, it’s something that seriously needs to be discussed.”
Wie West, whose last appearance on the LPGA Tour ended with a missed cut at the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA, has been keeping plenty busy during her break from the tour.
In August, she married Jonnie West, an executive for the Golden State Warriors and a son of NBA legend Jerry West. In September, she joined the Golf Channel to provide commentary for the Solheim Cup. In December, CBS announced she would be part of its coverage team for the 2020 Masters. (That didn’t happen because the Masters was postponed until November.) In January, Wie West announced she was pregnant with a baby girl.
“Before I was even pregnant, I thought my career would come to an end when I had kids, and I was fine with that,” Wie West said. “Then I found out I was having a girl, and my perspective changed. … Now, I definitely want to play for her. I want to create a future for her while she sees me being a strong woman and an athlete and being someone that is pursuing her dreams.”
Wie West underwent surgery on her wrist in October 2018. She played in 16 events in 2018 and four in 2019. When Wie West announced her pregnancy at the beginning of the year, she took maternity leave on the LPGA Tour, which instituted a new maternity leave policy last year. It gives players the option of taking leave in the year in which they are pregnant and give birth or to take it the year after the birth. The leave guarantees she won’t lose her status when she returns.
“It allows us to totally focus on our pregnancies, and if you want to play, it gives us that option as well,” Wie West said. “But there’s no pressure in forcing us to play, which is great. And I definitely want to come back. It’s nice to know you have your status where it was before and not have it negatively affected.”
Since the start of her professional career on the LPGA Tour in 2009, Wie West has never missed a season. She has won five titles and made $6.8 million in prize money and far more in endorsements. Wie West, who started playing golf when she was 4, became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links when she was 10 years old. She won the tournament three years later in 2003. The next year, at the 2004 Sony Open, a 14-year-old Wie West made the first of her eight career starts on the PGA Tour, playing on a sponsor’s exemption. The next year, Wie West turned professional. By the age of 16, Wie West had finished in the top five in three LPGA majors. In 2008, she earned her LPGA Tour card at Q school, and she won her first professional event at the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
“I feel like my whole career, I’ve done the opposite of what people thought I should do,” Wie West said. “I’m choosing to be happy, and I think that when I stepped away from the game a little bit, I just realized it wasn’t good for my body and good for me mentally.”
Wie West said time away from the LPGA Tour has been both physically and mentally beneficial. “Playing while I’ve been pregnant has definitely given me that time to heal from my wrist and heal emotionally,” Wie West said. “It’s taken a long time. It’s definitely a shift in gear mentally when I hit my first shot and thought, ‘Wow that actually didn’t hurt.’ I don’t need to be afraid of the golf ball. That was a big moment for me.
“And playing golf with my husband and being competitive with him, it’s been nice to really play the game as almost like a fan of the game with just someone that enjoys it. You know, it’s been really fun just watching my husband play, too. How he enjoys the game and just seeing a different perspective of it. Sometimes when you’re on tour week after week, you see the game a little bit differently. And now playing golf for fun and being competitive for fun, it’s making me really excited to get back.”
Above all else, Wie West’s top priority is staying healthy during her pregnancy during the coronavirus pandemic and putting her family first. And although she doesn’t have an exact timeline for a return to professional golf, she knows that her perspective on both her career and life has changed.
“With the state of the world, the pandemic, you just have to take it day by day. It’s not a matter really of just how I feel physically and what not. It’s more for safety and especially knowing that I’m going to have to be traveling with a newborn is scary at this time,” Wie West said.
“As far as my plan, it’s really going to be trial and error. I’m doing things my own way and not being scared of the questions of what people will say or think. My whole career, I have really tried to forge my own path, and we will see what works best for us as a family.”
The one thing that Wie West is fairly certain of during these unprecedented times?
“I’m pretty sure my husband is going to bring a golf club into the delivery room and put it into our daughter’s hands,” she said, laughing.