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Michelle Wie West Retires: Celebrating a Career Defined by Boldness

After making a splash at the Sony Open in Hawaii at age 14, Wie West will walk away after this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

Michelle Wie West made her career on the LPGA Tour and was among her LPGA peers as she spoke about calling it a career after this week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.

But what she said on the dais echoed back to her eight PGA TOUR starts.

What, she was asked, would be her legacy?

“Ooh, I think that one word comes to mind: Bold,” Wie West said. “Made a lot of bold choices in my career, and I’m proud of it. I’m proud of being fearless at times and just doing what felt right. I hope that I inspire a lot of other girls to make bold and fearless decisions and choices in their careers, as well.”

Her career highlight came at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, one of her five LPGA wins, but she was never more bold and fearless than at the 2004 Sony Open in Hawaii. Still just a 14-year-old ninth grader at Oahu’s Punahou School, Wie West, a sponsor exemption, shot 72-68 to miss the cut by one, turning the golf world upside-down.

“Just one more shot and I would have made it,” she said that day. “It’s killing me now.”

The fact that she hadn’t gotten to the weekend did little to dim expectations. Although Suzy Whaley had played in the Travelers Championship, and Annika Sorenstam had teed it up against the men at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, there was something altogether different about Wie West.

Such was the buzz of her Sony surprise that Sports Illustrated even made comparisons to Tiger Woods, who had missed the cut by six in his first TOUR start, at the 1992 L.A. Open (Genesis Invitational), at age 16.

Wie West was already 6 feet tall, and her 300-yard drives were helping her reach par-5s in two. She beat 47 of the men that week at Waialae Country Club, including 18 PGA TOUR winners. She tied Jim Furyk. Her nickname, “The Big Wiesy,” alluded to her Ernie Els-like tempo; their swings were uncannily similar.

“She can play on this TOUR,” said Els (the original Big Easy). “If she keeps working, doing the right things, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be out here.”

Her scores at the Sony were no fluke. At the 2005 John Deere Classic, where Wie West again competed as an amateur on a sponsor exemption, she shot 70-71 to miss the cut by two. The excitement only grew.

“I went to a normal high school and none of my friends knew what I was doing,” she said from Pebble Beach this week, when asked if the public’s interest in new LPGA sensation Rose Zhang reminded her of those years. “So, it was weird that we were at dinner and there was a camera there and people were coming up.”

Although Wie West hinted that she might split time between the PGA TOUR and LPGA, that’s not what happened. She made eight TOUR starts, missing the cut seven times – her head-turning performances at the Sony and the Deere being as close as she got to making the cut – and withdrawing with illness once.

Instead, Wie West spent most of her career on the LPGA, making a mark with five victories, including a major, despite coping with injuries. Now 33, she has myriad other interests, including fashion design, podcasting, and, she said from Pebble, making pickles from the cucumbers in her garden.

Those who saw her tee it up against the guys, though, won’t soon forget it.

“When I made the (retirement) announcement last year,” she said, “even still it was like, oh, I’m transitioning out, but I have Pebble. Now I don’t have anything in the foreseeable future, so it’s definitely an emotional week for me. I just realized everything I’m doing I’m doing for the last time.

“The putting drills that I’m doing,” she continued, “you’d best believe I’m not going to do another putting drill for the rest of my life if I don’t need to. … It’s a pretty cool feeling, and I feel incredibly blessed.”

Source : PGA Tour