SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Eight years ago, Michelle Wie West walked along the baked-out fairways of the Carolina Sandhills in pursuit of a lifelong goal — winning a major championship.
She arrived at Pinehurst No. 2’s iconic 18th green with a two-shot lead and one hand on the U.S. Women’s Open trophy. When her final putt dropped, she raised her hands in the air with tears welling in her eyes.
At long last, she was a major champion.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wie West said. “I just couldn’t ask for more.”
On Friday, she once again walked along the baked-out fairways in the Carolina Sandhills. The venue was different this time — Pine Needles Resort is just five miles down Highway 2 from the better-known Pinehurst Resort — but the walk was equally emotional.
Tears welled in her eyes once again, and the galleries showered her with praise. They love their own around here, and ever since her 2014 victory, she’s been an adopted daughter.
But this will be the last time they see Wie West compete in the most iconic region in American golf.
The 32-year-old, still with just one major championship to her name, announced last week her intentions to step away from professional golf. She still plans on playing the U.S. Women’s Open next year at Pebble Beach — the final year of her 10-year exemption into the championship — but her focus will shift away from pro golf.
Wie West will always live on in the lore of the area, but she will not add to her story on the golf course.
“It was bittersweet to announce that,” Wie West said. “[But] it’s been an amazing journey, and I’m very excited for what happens next.”
While the U.S. Women’s Open trophy is slated to be awarded Sunday evening, Wie West’s week ended on Friday afternoon. With a two-round total of 147, she will miss the cut. Friday was her final walk around Pine Needles storied grounds.
“Missing the cut sucks, but overall, I had a very positive experience,” she said. “[I] had a lot of fun.”
The day started off on a high note for Wie West. She woke for her early-morning tee time and, as is her routine, played the popular game Wordle on her phone. She got the answer correctly with just two guesses.
The fortuitous beginning would not be a sign of things to come.
Although Wie West birdied her opening hole — the gettable dogleg right par 5 — she bogeyed three of her next four holes.
“Just was above the hole one too many times,” she said. “I just got off to the wrong start with my reads and just didn’t trust my eyes.”
Putting woes were a theme throughout her round. She hit 13 of 14 fairways, and 13 of 18 greens, but never quite got comfortable on the grainy Bermuda putting surfaces. She finished her round with 32 putts.
Still, when she walked to the 18th tee, there was an outside shot Wie West could make the cut. She’d need a birdie — and a little bit of help from others in the field — but the opportunity was there.
She teed her ball low on the 18th tee and pulled fairway wood from her bag. A few deep breathes later, and her ball was safely in the fairway. She retreated to the back and refilled her water bottle as fans whispered pleasantries.
We love you, Michelle!
When all tee balls were away, she started her final stroll down the baked-out fairway.
Her approach came up well short of the back-left hole location and trickled off the false front guarding the green. Her hopes of making the cut rested on the single club that had betrayed her all day — the putter.
As she walked those final hundred yards to the green, those in the grandstands showered her with applause. Familiar faces dotted the crowd — these were the same fans that had been just down the road eight years before as Wie West became a Sandhills legend.
“I definitely teared up a little bit knowing that it would be one of my last times doing that,” Wie West said. “It was really cool. Definitely had flashbacks of Pinehurst.”
Alas, the storybook ending was not to be. Wie West’s birdie try raced past the hole, and her seven-foot par effort missed on the way back. She tapped in for her bogey, and walked off the green one final time.
“I gave it my all today,” Wie West said. “[I] gave [it] a good run.”