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On the U.S. Women’s Open, Michelle Wie West Reflects on an ‘Amazing Journey’

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Michelle Wie West, considered one of golf’s most celebrated players since she was 10, had breakfast Tuesday morning within the player dining area on the U.S. Women’s Open on the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in North Carolina.

“I had someone come as much as me,” Wie West, 32, said, “saying that they were named after me.”

She gently rolled her eyes and deadpanned: “In order that made me feel really young. I’m at that phase in my life.”

Last week, Wie West announced she was stepping away from competitive golf after this week’s championship. She has no plans to play one other L.P.G.A. tournament in 2022. The one other event she expects to enter is the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

She used the word “retire” just once when speaking with reporters on Tuesday and conceded that she could change her mind. But for Wie West, who contended for major championships shortly after her sixteenth birthday, won five L.P.G.A. events, including the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, collected endorsements and prize-money earnings within the tens of tens of millions of dollars and, notably, played eight times against men on the PGA Tour, there was the lilt of finality in her voice.

“It’s something I’ve been excited about for some time,” Wie West said. “It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m very excited for what happens next.”

The long run, nevertheless, could wait for not less than one other 10 minutes as Wie West tried to summarize her profession, which, due to her precocious introduction to elite golf, was lived under the obsessively vibrant lights of international stardom. Her profession was also significantly disrupted by wrist injuries, which caused her to play intermittently or by no means for long stretches. In June 2020, along together with her husband Jonnie West, she became a parent for the primary time with the birth of the couple’s daughter, Makenna.

“First off, I would like to say I actually have zero regrets in my profession,” she said. “There’s at all times that inkling of wishing I had done more. But nobody is ever going to be 100% satisfied.

“I actually have definitely had an up-and-down profession, but I’m extremely proud for the resiliency that I’ve shown,” she said. “I’m extremely proud to have achieved the 2 biggest dreams that I’ve had — one being graduating from Stanford, and the opposite winning the U.S. Open.”

Wie West was smiling, laughing and relaxed. Amongst all of the very public moments of her very public profession, this appeared to be a simple one, and she or he was blissful to be back within the setting of her signature on-the-course achievement.

“I’m definitely giving myself some grace and having fun with this last week,” she said.

For Wie West, whose presence, manifold skills and towering drives drew comparisons to Tiger Woods, what was left unsaid was her impact on women’s golf. She never addressed the subject directly nor did she acknowledge her own substantial influence on the game’s popularity, but when asked what has modified in the ladies’s game within the last 20 years, Wie West was animated.

“Oh, I mean, a lot has modified,” she answered. “Huge kudos to the usG.A. for really buying into the ladies’s sport and the L.P.G.A. for just growing and keep pushing the boundaries.

“When doors get closed on us, we just keep pushing, and I’m just so pleased with everyone on tour and the usG.A. for really buying in and setting the extent right,” she said.

In January, the USA Golf Association nearly doubled the U.S. Women’s Open prize money to $10 million with the winner of this yr’s championship earning $1.8 million, the richest single payout in women’s golf.

A yr ago, only three women on the L.P.G.A. tour earned greater than $1.8 million. While the prize money for the boys’s U.S. Open is $12.5 million, the usG.A. chief executive Mike Whan has plans to bump the ladies’s purse to $12 million in just a few years.

The payouts of golf-industry sponsorship contracts awarded to top men’s golfers proceed to overshadow most of those bestowed on women.

But on that front, Wie West, who last yr joined the L.P.G.A. board of directors and continues to serve in that capability, had advice, from personal experience, for the golfers who will succeed her.

“As female athletes, numerous times we get told, ‘Oh, your sponsorship is just price this much; it is best to only ask for this much,’ ” Wie West said. “We’re type of in that mind-set, and I might encourage female younger athletes coming as much as say, ‘No, I do know my price. I do know what I deserve.’ And ask for more.”

Asked if that was what she had done — successfully — she answered: “Yes, of course.”

Wie West can be an investor in an organization, LA Golf, that she said was pledging to start out recent initiatives for girls golfers with hopes of financially altering the sponsorship landscape.

Within the short term, Wie West still has a tournament to compete on this week, one which, given her other priorities, she has not prepared for as she may need 10 or 20 years ago.

“Definitely haven’t had the practice schedule that I often do leading as much as U.S. Open,” she said with a smile. “This week, I’m just soaking all of it in. Just seeing all of the fans, seeing all of the players, walking the walk. It’s pretty cool.”

Being a past champion of the event helps Wie West benefit from the experience, perhaps more meaningfully than anyone would have expected. In what was something of a surprise, she said that without claiming the U.S. Women’s Open trophy eight years ago, there wouldn’t now be an end in sight to her competitive profession.

“It’s the one tournament I desired to win ever since I began playing golf,” Wie West said. She then insisted: “If I hadn’t won the 2014 U.S. Open, I might still — I definitely wouldn’t retire. And I might still be out here playing and chasing that win. That win means all the pieces to me.”

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