Michelle Wie West misses reduce at US Women’s Open, however offers fan one thing she’ll always remember

Michelle Wie West stood alone off the seventeenth inexperienced at Pine Needles early Friday afternoon, the truth setting in. She turned her gaze towards the big video board within the distance, the one that exposed the reduce line for the U.S. Women’s Open. There was however one gap remaining. Wie West knew she wasn’t going to be round for the weekend.

Her enjoying companions completed their placing and Wie West started strolling towards No. 18. Before she did, she veered to her proper and towards the yellow rope. On the opposite facet there was a household who’d come to look at Wie West — a husband and spouse and their 23-year-old daughter, in a wheelchair. They have been about to expertise a second they’ll keep in mind for a very long time.

“My daughter’s disabled,” Michael Rheaume stated. “She loves golf and has always liked Michelle Wie, so we kind of gravitate towards her.”

Now Wie West was gravitating towards them. She walked towards the lady within the wheelchair and knelt down and handed her a ball, the one Wie West had simply putted into the opening for a par on No. 17. On the ball, Wie West had written in black marker the title of her daughter — “KENNA,” it stated, brief for McKenna — together with somewhat coronary heart beneath the TaylorMade brand.

Just as rapidly as she’d arrived, Wie West was gone, on her method to the ultimate gap. In her wake she’d left one thing lasting. The Rheaumes celebrated, every one taking turns holding the ball, analyzing it, thanking Wie West for the memento and for taking a short second to make an impression they’d always remember.

“That’s why we love that lady,” stated Michael Rheaume, and on Friday his spouse, Vicki, and daughter, Sara, have been watching Wie West in individual for the primary time.

“We came here to follow her because we know this could be her last U.S. Open in the area,” he stated, “and we wanted to at least cheer her on.”

Next to him, his daughter turned her new prized possession again and again in her fingertips.

“I really like her ball that she gave me,” she stated.



Sense of contentment

Wie West is now 32 years previous, a younger age that in some way appears older given how lengthy she has been part of our sporting consciousness. Michelle Wie was as soon as an early teen prodigy, the topic of “60 Minutes” profiles and infinite ESPN hype and books and journal covers; a wonderchild who was anointed as The Next Big Thing. And now, abruptly, it’s all however over.

Entering this U.S. Women’s Open, she introduced her impending retirement; that she was going to play on this occasion, at Pine Needles, and play within the 2023 Open, at Pebble Beach. And then that’d be it. Two extra occasions — and now yet another, after Wie West completed Friday 5-over total by means of the primary two rounds, 4 photographs in need of making the reduce.

And so her lengthy stroll on Friday round 18 holes of tall pines and scorching, sandy brush represented one thing of a farewell. Or, no less than a farewell earlier than The Farewell, the one which’ll come subsequent 12 months at Pebble Beach. The most joyous and triumphant second of Wie West’s {golfing} life got here simply eight years in the past, and 5 miles down the street, when she received the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

She was 24 then, the identical age as Annika Sorenstam was when she received her first U.S. Open, and it felt within the second like Wie would possibly meet or exceed all of these burdensome expectations, in any case. Instead Wie West has by no means in one other main duplicated her mastery of Pinehurst in ‘14. Earlier this week, she stated, her expertise there remained “a blur,” a type of out-of-body expertise.

“I walked in Pinehurst Village this morning to get coffee,” she stated earlier this week, trying again at 2014. “Funny enough, I don’t remember anything about the week …

“I think I drove by Pinehurst No. 2 (and) I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool golf course.’ They’re like, ‘Oh, that’s Pinehurst No. 2.’ I’m like, I don’t remember that at all. I think I just blacked out that week.”

If she hadn’t received that U.S. Open eight years in the past, if she was nonetheless chasing her first, she would’ve not been so able to announce her retirement, Wie West stated right here earlier this week. Instead she “would still be out here playing and chasing that win,” she stated. The 2014 victory at Pinehurst, then, supplied her a way of contentment, even when she doesn’t recall all the main points.

Main attraction

Never thoughts that it stays Wie West’s first and solely victory in a U.S. Open, or some other main, for that matter. Never thoughts that her prodigal expertise, as a preteen and early teenager, portended larger issues. Wie West has discovered satisfaction, nonetheless, alongside a {golfing} journey that hasn’t precisely gone in accordance with plan.

She has received however 5 occasions on the LPGA Tour and simply as soon as since 2014. A recurring wrist damage restricted Wie West in 2018 and ‘19. She didn’t play in any respect in 2020 after the beginning of her daughter, McKenna, and final 12 months she made the reduce in simply two of the six occasions she entered. Yet to look at Wie West is to look at somebody who’s at peace along with her limits today, and with the street she has adopted to succeed in this level.

Her up-and-down spherical on Friday supplied additional proof of that. After a birdie on the opening gap she bogeyed three of the following 4 earlier than birdies on No. 8 and No. 11 supplied hope, nonetheless briefly, that she would possibly muster sufficient to stay round on the weekend. But then got here three extra bogeys and a 3-over 74 for the day.

Still, Wie West stays a foremost attraction. A packed gallery, which grew in measurement, adopted her each transfer on Friday. It included a large variety of little ladies, a few of them wearing golf apparel, all of them too younger to have been alive when Wie West represented a sure type of future. Now she represented a great. She would possibly’ve not received as typically as everybody assumed she would have, however she’d influenced an untold variety of ladies, nonetheless.

A bunch of them have been ready for her as Wie West trudged up on the seventeenth fairway. For one of many few occasions of the day, it lastly regarded as if her lengthy spherical was attending to her, however right here have been 4 ladies, in all probability round 10 or so, ready in a line alongside the ropes. Their dads stood close by consuming pizza, and considered one of them requested the group in the event that they have been able to stroll to a different gap.

No, one of many ladies responded. They have been ready for Wie West to stroll previous.

And as she did the women quietly counted down — “one … two … three,” they stated, collectively — earlier than yelling with as a lot would possibly as they may: “Go Michelle Wie!” And Wie West, on her method to one other missed reduce, eight years faraway from reigning over the game and fulfilling her promise throughout one superb week simply down the street from right here, turned and smiled and waved.

‘A great example’

She regarded somewhat drained then and nearly glum, momentarily, after one other bogey on 17. Mostly, although, Wie West met her destiny on the course with a type of peaceable acceptance. Life had modified her and supplied doses of perspective. Since profitable at Pinehurst No. 2, she’d married and handled the frustration of damage and turn into a mom.

She’d discovered, she stated after her spherical on Friday, that this recreation she has performed for thus lengthy is meant to be enjoyable. And so she devoted herself to creating it that means, which is why she discovered time to smile at the same time as her rating, relative to par, continued to rise.

“There were times where I was very intense in my career on the golf course,” Wie West stated, “but I soon learned that just — it’s a game, still. Even though it’s your job, golf is still a game. It’s a great game, and it’s a long time to be out there if you’re not having fun.

“So I decided I was going to have fun on the golf course.”

She awoke on Friday feeling good, and hopeful. She did a Wordle for the primary time, she stated, and got here up with the reply on the second guess, a excessive that left her feeling “undefeatable.”

“Then it was a gradual decline after that,” she stated.

And but Wie West nonetheless managed to make some peoples’ days. Maybe not her personal. But the little ladies who lined the ropes chanting her title, and who acquired a smile and a wave in return. And Sara Rheaume, the younger girl within the wheelchair who acquired a memento she’ll treasure.

Her father tried to clarify what it was about Wie West the household admired.

“I’m an educator and my wife’s a nurse practitioner, so we admire her because she finished college, played the pro tour and now is a mom, and did all those things,” Michael Rheaume stated. “So, a great example for our two daughters.”

Wie West was heading towards the 18th tee now, a big crowd following her. Soon sufficient she was strolling up the golf green, and he or she stated later that she started to tear up on the reception, figuring out that she was making this stroll for one of many remaining occasions in a U.S. Open — and for the ultimate time in this Open, so geographically near the positioning of her biggest skilled achievement.

Spectators within the gallery jockeyed for place, making an attempt to catch a glimpse as she walked previous. Back close to 17, Michael Rheaume hustled to catch up, and started directing his daughter to the following fairway. She requested the place they have been going and his reply got here rapidly: “We’re going to watch Michelle,” he stated, and now it was one of many final occasions anybody might.

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