In surreal finale, Michelle Wie West saved magic for the end
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Michelle Wie West waited over a year to say goodbye to competitive golf on the grandest stage. When she reached Pebble Beach’s 18th fairway late Friday afternoon, she had to wait a little longer.
Annika Sorenstam, her playing partner at the 78th U.S. Women’s Open, had tugged her tee shot into Stillwater Cove and there was confusion as to where she should take a drop. No matter. It gave Wie West a few more moments to soak in the final 18th-hole stroll of her career.
The crowds thinned considerably by then, but those who mattered most surrounded her. Jonnie West, her husband, carried her bag beside her, while her friends and family shouted encouragement from outside the rope line. The couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Makenna, was among them, sleeping in a stroller. After hitting her approach into the greenside bunker, Wie West walked over to check in on her sleeping toddler.
Motherhood was one of Wie West’s motives for leaving the game. In her final act on the course she stayed true to her word. She might love the game of golf, but she loves being a mother more.
“There is nothing I want more than my daughter to be in a better position than I ever was,” Wie West said last summer. “I want her to get everything that she deserves.”
Those working in Golf Channel’s “Live From” set stood at the rear of the studio and watched the scene unfold. Wie West looked their direction and made a heart with her hands.
“[I’m] definitely going to miss the people,” she said.
Those remaining in the grandstands showered her with applause as she approached the green. This is the first time the best women in the world have competed at Pebble, and without Wie West’s trailblazing efforts, it might never have happened.
The putter — long a bugaboo for the 33-year-old — did not cooperate this week at Pebble, but Wie West still proved she had a little magic left in the wand. With her final stroke, she rolled in a 33-footer for par. All she could do was laugh. She shot two rounds of 79 to miss the cut by eight shots, but the scores didn’t much matter. This week was always fated to be a celebration.
“Making that long putt on 18 definitely was a sweeter sendoff,” she said.
The first stop on Wie West’s farewell parade was with USGA CEO Mike Whan. The longtime commissioner greeted Wie West with a bouquet of flowers just behind the 18th green. Tears welled in her eyes as she accepted them and embraced him. LPGA pros Marina Alex and Jodi Ewart Shadoff made sure to pay their respects, as did David Leadbetter, Wie West’s longtime swing coach, who made sure to give his old pupil a call.
As Wie West stepped to the podium in the interview area, she held Makenna in her arms, wide-eyed under the beaming lights. Jonnie, her parents and dozens of others stood just out of frame, recapping the day that was.
“I’ve definitely held back tears the entire round,” Wie West said. “Everything was just incredible.”
Her final presser did not last long — just six questions — but every answer came with a sentiment of gratitude. For her family, who supported her from start to finish. For her friends, with whom the bonds will last a lifetime. And for her career, which came to an emotional conclusion at golf’s greatest meeting of land and sea.
“It feels [like] nothing has changed and everything was changed all at once,” she said. “It’s definitely a strange and surreal feeling.”