Michelle Wie West leads equipment maker’s push to improve LPGA player benefits
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Michelle Wie West has been a pioneer inside the ropes since before she was a teenager. Now, she’s trailblazing off the course — this time, in the world of business.
Wie West will lead a new women’s initiative with equipment manufacturer LA Golf in which the company will provide its LPGA players with full healthcare, including mental health days and paid maternity leave, performance-based bonuses, along with other benefits. The goal of the program, the company said in a statement, is to “treat female golfers the way they should have been treated all along.”
LA Golf said it will announce its 2023 staff of LPGA players later this year.
The launch of the initiative comes one week after Wie West announced she would step away from the LPGA to focus on other ventures.
As Wie West prepares to compete in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open, GOLF.com caught up with her to learn more about her new venture, her LPGA legacy and more.
(Ed. note: This Q and A has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
Zephyr Melton: Which part of the LA Golf program are you most excited about?
Michelle Wie West: I’m just excited to create a dialogue in the corporate landscape for female golfers. The LPGA Tour is doing such an amazing job with supporting our players with daycare, increasing purses, and stuff like that. But we also need corporate buy-ins. We need companies to prioritize female golfers. We at LA Golf felt the need to show that we are doing that. We want to create a dialogue within the space and provide full health benefits for our players — paid maternity leave, paid mental health days. So all of that is very exciting.
ZM: I understand there are also travel perks within this program. Could you explain a little how that will work?
MWW: We are providing a travel concierge service to allow for seamless travel for our players that will hopefully elongate their careers. One of the hidden burdens of being a female athlete is the travel. We’re not like an NBA team or even like the PGA Tour. We have to lug our bags on and off the carousel — risking bags getting lost every week, risking injury pulling a 70-pound bag off the carousel. We’re just trying to make things easier for our players.
ZM: Why now? Why is this the time to step away and focus your energy on this venture?
MWW: These are projects that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. But being a competitive golfer, you have to give it 110 percent, and I just couldn’t give anything else to any projects, so I needed to step away to do this. Just being on the board of the LPGA has been really helpful and it’s been great to be part of that process. And now to be on the corporate side and being a part of companies that are as excited to help women golfers is just a dream come true. I just want to do more of things like this.
ZM: Did you always envision yourself blazing trails in the business world?
MWW: It’s something that I always hoped to do. I’m still a rookie on the business side, but luckily I have a lot of mentors in that landscape. I’m still learning, but I want to make a meaningful impact.
ZM: How much has being a mother to your daughter inspired you to make things better for the next generation of players?
MWW: It’s had a huge impact. There is nothing I want more than my daughter to be in a better position than I ever was. If she chooses to be a female athlete, I want her to get everything that she deserves. I want her to be able to be respected for the amazing athlete that she is. Hopefully we will get there, and this is just the beginning.
ZM: What’s your hope for your own game this week at Pine Needles?
MWW: The competitive side of me wants to win, but I’m definitely managing expectations. My practice schedule hasn’t been what it usually is heading to a tournament, but still I just want to soak every moment in. It has been amazing to see the fans out there and the players. I’m definitely excited to play this week, and I can’t wait to get out there.
ZM: You won the U.S. Women’s Open just down the road at Pinehurst eight years ago. Eight years from now, where do you hope to be?
MWW: Hopefully doing more projects like this. I want to keep advocating for female golfers and female athletes in general. And then just having fun in life — hopefully the most fun watching my daughter grow. We hope to expand our family one day, and then get more dogs, too.
ZM: How do you want to be remembered on this tour?
MWW: I want to be remembered for making this tour, and the landscape for female athletes, better than how I found it. It’s something I’ve always strived for since I got on tour, living up to the 13 founders and honoring them and everything they did this tour for us. Hopefully I can do the same for the future generations.
ZM: I know the fans are bummed they won’t be seeing you out here much anymore, but it sounds like you might be leaving the door cracked slightly open for some sort of return?
MWW: I’m not shutting the door completely. I have made some drastic changes in my decisions before. So the door is definitely open.