PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — There is no other way for it to end.
After a dismal week at Pebble Beach, where Michelle Wie West struggled to find the bottom of the cup, the 30-foot par putt on the 18th green — the last of her career — missed cause to fall. And yet, the ball keeps rolling, then drops and finally, falls.
All Wie West could do was laugh. It wasn’t exactly the last she envisioned — where she lasted through the weekend, played well and probably contested her last US Women’s Open in her last tournament ever — but it was the last she got and one more that lasting memory. in a career that spanned decades.
“The game is a funny game,” said Wie West after posting a two-day score of 14 over par (79-79) and missing the cut by 8 shots. “Making that long putt on 18 was definitely a sweeter send.”
Wie West said she battled emotions since the first tee Friday, fighting back tears and waiting for the final moments to come. As she stood on the 18th tee behind her husband and caddy, Jonnie West, she took a few deep breaths and fought back tears before launching her final tee shot in the fading light. .
Next to her, three-time US Women’s Open winner Annika Sorenstam, who may have also played in her last major championship, asked her son to take a picture of her and her husband and caddy, Mike, on the 18 tees.
Everyone is trying to hold on to the moment longer.
“It definitely feels surreal right now,” Wie West said. “It feels like nothing has changed and everything has changed at once.”
Then, the walk down the 18th fairway and up to the green came. As Sorenstam’s son walked with the group, Wie West looked for his mom, who was pushing a stroller with Wie West’s 3-year-old daughter, Makenna, in it. He was sleeping.
After Wie West made the long putt and walked onto the green to another compliment and a bouquet of flowers from USGA CEO Mike Whan, Makenna woke up. Wie West then took him and carried him from interview to interview, his presence serving as another reminder of the life Wie West has now chosen after decades of dedication to the game that brought him here, 2,400 miles across the ocean from in his native Honolulu.
“I want to play better, but this whole experience has been amazing,” Wie West said. “It’s great to have my last round here at Pebble Beach.”
The situation befits a storied career marked by several historic firsts that Wie has accumulated during his years in the game. Although she announced her retirement before last year’s US Women’s Open at Pine Needles, Wie West could not fail to put together a final on Friday at one of the most famous holes in the world with a memorable last shot to play on. highlight reels to come.
“Public Links was the first tournament I played on the mainland,” Wie West said last year. “And the US Open is definitely late.”
That amateur Public Links tournament in 2000 was Wie West’s first historic foray into the world of golf. He is 10 years old. Two years later she became the youngest person to qualify for an LPGA Tour event. A year later, she won the Public Links at 13, becoming the youngest woman or man to win a USGA event. How does he follow it? By playing in a men’s event (the 2004 Sony Open through a sponsor’s exemption), shooting 68 and missing the cut by just one stroke.
Wie West went on to play a total of six PGA Tour events, and while he turned pro in 2005 – prompting an onslaught of major sponsorships and worldwide attention – he didn’t get LPGA membership until 2009 due to her age. . In that time she has played in six US Women’s Opens and 16 major championships and has seven top-10 finishes to her name.
Since 2009, Wie West has won just five times on the LPGA Tour, including the 2014 US Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2, which represents the pinnacle of his long career. That year was the first time the women played in the US Open at a venue that was also played by men in the same year.
This year, the importance of a long-overdue women’s major at Pebble Beach represents a fitting end for Wie, who was not only a trailblazer for women’s golf but also a phenomenon. which pushes the game to think outside of its perceived constraints. Her foray into not just the world of women’s golf, but the men’s as well, required not only a bravery that Wie West said Tuesday she hopes will be part of her lasting legacy, but also a burden. that no one will bring. And yet in many ways, due to his larger-than-life entry into the game, Wie West did.
So while the results on the course may not match the hype and expectation that surrounded him in his early years, his influence on the game is still evident. Several of the players in this year’s tournament broke his records after qualifying or playing in tournaments at a younger age than him.
“I’m proud to be fearless sometimes and just do what feels right,” Wie West said Tuesday of his career. “I hope I can inspire many other women to also make bold and fearless decisions and choices in their careers.”
Although Wie West is retiring from the game — he made a point to say he likely won’t touch his clubs for a while — he says his family already plans to make a trip back to Pebble Beach at some point. . His next round won’t give him the adrenaline rush he says he’ll miss, but it will remind him of something else he said after his round last Friday.
“I still love the game of golf,” he said. “But yeah, it’s going to be weird. It’s definitely a weird feeling. But it’s going to be great.”
For now, though, there are no more putts to be hit, no more interviews to be given. When the sun finally appeared and gave Pebble Beach some of its light, Wie West took her daughter, stood next to her husband and began to walk away. The rest of his life had officially begun.