Michelle Wie West returns to LPGA with newfound motivation: her daughter

Michelle Wie West at the Kia Classic.

Michelle Wie West makes her first LPGA start since June 2019 at this week's Kia Classic.

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The last time Michelle Wie West played a golf tournament, the one-time child phenom was fighting back tears. Her wrist hurt. She iced it during her round. Her play was off. Her future was uncertain. This was nearly two years ago, when she shot 84-82 and missed the cut at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June 2019.

She had been out since mid-April to rest her arthritic wrist, which had given her trouble for months and stumped doctors before she had surgery in October 2018. Her two rounds at Hazeltine didn’t lift spirits. She sounded defeated and frustrated.

“I’m not entirely sure how much more I have left in me,” she said at the time. A week later the 29-year-old announced she was taking the rest of the year off.

On Wednesday, 21 months later, Wie West spoke to the media at the Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., which is her first start since that KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She’s back with a newfound motivation: her daughter.

There’s nothing like hitting golf shots that matter. Michelle Wie West

“I thought I was done, to be honest,” Wie West said. “After the KPMG in 2019 I thought I was done, and when I found out I was pregnant later that year I thought that cemented it, that there’s no chance of me coming back and I told my husband [Jonnie West] that. And he was like, ‘No, no. Just think it through.’ And then we found out that Makenna was going to be a girl, and that just completely changed my perspective of everything. That one little fact kind of just changed everything. Then I started to think that I kind of want to do it, I want to show her in real time that I play golf. It’s one thing to have her watch YouTube videos, but it’s another thing to have her watch it with her own eyes, to see me go out there and work hard and try and lead by example. And that moment Tiger had with Charlie [at the 2019 Masters], that’s the first thing that popped into my mind and that’s been a huge motivation and a new dream of mine.”

Since Makenna was 10 months old, Wie West has taken her on the course with her, carrying her own bag and pushing a stroller, even positioning it so her daughter can watch. Makenna likes crawling on the greens and taking the balls out of the holes. Wie West’s parents are on site this week to watch Makenna.

Wie West, 31, said taking time to focus on herself has been important during her time off (and the pandemic). She takes advantage of baby naptimes to workout and has gotten into yoga and pilates. She’s focusing on eating right. She said she started increasing her practice time in January and has been pleasantly surprised her distance hasn’t fallen off.

“I’m pretty proud of myself for grinding it out there; I have been grinding,” she said. “Like I said, I’m just grateful that I’m out here. I’m having fun, and it’s been fun to get the competitive juices flowing.”

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Temporarily sidelined from playing competitively, Wie West joined CBS Sports as a contributing analyst in 2019 and worked several events, including the 2020 November Masters, and appeared as an analyst on Golf Channel. She said the experience of joining live TV was the closest she’s been to first-tee jitters.

“It’s fun hitting balls on the range and it’s fun messing around hitting a couple of chips, but there’s nothing like hitting golf shots that matter,” she said. “And you kind of feel those first-tee jitters and those nerves coming out, and I have missed that.”

Wie West will also play next week’s ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the first major of the LPGA season. She picked to return this week since she can drive to both stops. Her schedule from here is day-to-day, she says. Wie West tees off alongside In Gee Chun and Albane Valenzuela for the first two rounds. Her tee time for the first round is at 3:33 p.m. ET on Thursday off the 1st tee.

“Obviously I want to win,” she said. “I’m not out here just to make the cut. I’m really enjoying my time out here, I want to have fun and that’s when I play my best is when I go out there and have fun and really enjoy the game. And as a competitor I want to show everyone what I got. So I’m just going to go out there and take it shot by shot, enjoy myself and try to make my daughter proud.”

Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.