Michelle Wie West, who burst into the golf world as a youth sensation but whose professional career has been slowed by injuries, announced Thursday she is ‘’stepping back’' from playing full time on the LPGA Tour.
‘’I’m so grateful for the past 14 years I spent on tour, traveling the world and competing against the best in the game,’’ the 32-year-old Hawaii native wrote on social media. ‘’Excited to spend more time now on projects that I always wanted to do but never had time for and to continually work to help golf become a more diverse and inclusive space.’’
In an interview published Thursday by Golfweek, Wie West said she planned to compete in next week’s US Women’s Open before embarking on an indefinite hiatus from the sport. She added that she also intends to play in the 2023 US Women’s Open, to be held at Pebble Beach, and that she is not formally retiring.
‘’I’m definitely not ruling anything out,’’ Wie West said.
A victory in the 2014 US Women’s Open remains Wie West’s sole major triumph, one of five wins she notched on the LPGA Tour. She has played sparingly since 2019, when she married Jonnie West, the director of pro scouting for the Golden State Warriors and the son of Hall of Famer Jerry West. Wie West took the 2020 season off to have a daughter, Makenna, and she has competed in just one LPGA event since July 2021.
‘’At times, if I do play a lot of golf,’’ she told Golfweek, ‘’I’m just in bed. Or I can’t lift [Makenna] up, and that scared me.’’
Wie West turned professional in 2005 after a legendary amateur career in which she created headlines by competing against male golfers. Unusually tall and long off the tee, she came within one stroke of making the cut at a 2004 PGA Tour event, the Sony Open in Hawaii, when she was 14 years old. Wie West, who would go on to make seven more PGA Tour starts through 2008, was also the youngest person to qualify for an LPGA Tour event when she did so at age 12 in the 2002 LPGA Takefuji Classic. As a 13-year-old, her victory in the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship made her the youngest USGA champion in an adult tournament.
Wie West’s final stretch as an amateur included top-three finishes in two major LPGA events in 2005. Already one of the biggest stars in women’s golf when she turned pro in October of that year, Wie West drew comparisons to Tiger Woods and appeared to be on her way to similar heights. Playing in a part-time capacity on the LPGA Tour in 2006, she recorded six straight top-five finishes, including at three majors.
However, Wie West began to struggle following that hot stretch, and she was sidelined for much of 2007 after breaking her left wrist in a fall. A litany of physical issues beset her in the years to follow, and in 2018 she revealed she was coping with arthritis in both wrists.
After shooting an 84 in the first round of the 2019 Women’s PGA Championship, Wie West grew emotional while telling reporters, ‘’It’s hard. It’s just one of those situations where I’m not entirely sure how much more I have left in me.’’
Wie West is now looking forward to pursuing other interests, such as advocating for women’s equality.
‘’It seems like it’s been a couple years coming where I’ve been slowly doing things that I’ve always wanted to do, but never had time to do,’’ she told Golfweek. ‘’It’s been a lot of fun to learn and grow into areas that I always wanted to grow into.’’
As for a career that turned into more of a roller coaster than her early success promised — possibly, some have argued, because of her quest to compete against men instead of focusing on women’s events — Wie West said, ‘’I don’t have any regrets, because I feel like I’ve always learned from every mistake that I’ve made.
‘’I feel like even if it was a huge major fail, at least it makes for a good story now.’’