PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Michelle Wie West has no problem admitting it: She has thought about her last walk up to the 18th hole at Pebble Beach — the final one of her career — plenty. She has visualized it, dreamt about it, even idealized it.

“Gosh, I hope it’s in the final group with everyone watching,” Wie West said Tuesday. “That would just be so incredible.”

As much as she has been able to, Wie West has written her own final script by deciding to make this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at this historic venue her last competitive tournament ever. And yet she knows all too well the unpredictability the sport that has dominated her life over the past 18 years can bring.

It’s why there’s no more crafting of her exit she can do once the ball is in the air Thursday. She has made her decision — one she described as “hard” — and is now having to come to terms with the finality that it brings.

“When I was done with Pine Needles, I was like, oh, but I have Pebble next year,” Wie West said of last year’s U.S. Open, where she first announced her retirement plans. “There is no Pebble next year.”

Wie West did not express regret, but she did speak of wishes and desires. She had always said she would quit once she had kids. She now has a toddler and hasn’t played a true, full LPGA Tour schedule since 2018, but the sport she has played her whole life still has a magnetism that speaks to her.

“I really, really wanted to play longer. I really wanted to — especially after having Makenna and her being a girl, I really wanted to play longer,” Wie West said. “In an ideal world I wish I was still out on Tour and playing. Unfortunately it’s just I had to make a hard decision with my body. It is hard. It is hard to be a mom out here. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. I just had to make a hard medical decision and also a personal decision.”

On Tuesday, Wie West played a practice round with fellow Stanford golf alum Rose Zhang, her family and friends trailing behind, watching her every shot at Pebble Beach as her husband Jonnie West caddied for her and her daughter watched the seals on Stillwater Cove below. The pairing and the setting were befitting of a figurative passing of the torch between Wie West and Zhang, who portends to be the next face of the women’s game. The two Stanford golf alums have become close as they pass each other by, 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 for the last time. The putting drills that I’m doing, you’d best believe I’m not going to do another putting drill for the rest of my life if I don’t need to. So all that stuff I’m doing for the last time, the last practice rounds, getting the line, writing in my yardage book.”

The melancholy that Wie West speaks of isn’t exactly visible as she plays. Instead, she is focused on her game, what the ball is doing, what kind of shot the hole is asking her to hit or how much that putt is breaking. But in a flash, she can also break out of that and talk to a friend, a media member, a 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 doing a lot of reflecting, and incredibly blessed for the journey that I have and the family that I’ve built,” Wie West said. “It’s just a really cool week to be here.”

Her competitive drive is still there, she said. In fact, it’s both the toughest to replicate outside of the course in other avenues of her life but also the easiest to let go of in her everyday routine.

“When you’re a professional athlete, the highs are so high, and the lows are so low,” Wie West said. “Honestly, for the past year, I haven’t felt the highest of highs, but I also haven’t felt the lowest of lows. It’s strange to have everyday be somewhat mundane. You go out there and you eat three meals, you take care of your daughter, and at night, you watch Netflix. It’s just everyday is OK.”

Wie West seems to have made not just peace with the next stage of her life, but embraced it fully, too. While the clubs get stashed in “the darkest corner of my garage,” pickleball with her husband will help fill the adrenaline tank a bit. Her garden at home needs tending, she said. Her daughter too. And as far as golf goes, she remains steadfast that she will remain around, helping, advocating and doing whatever she can to ensure her legacy will go beyond her final putt.

“I continue to want to help the Tour grow, female sports in general, and do everything in my power to keep empowering the women, closing the pay gap, whether it’s in sports and out of sports,” Wie West said. “I think we have to lead by example, and I hope I can be a part of that.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *