Michelle Wie West Reveals Pressure Of Expectation And 'Hiding' Injuries From The Media

Michelle Wie West has opened up about the injuries she endured during her career and the lasting effect they had on her

Michelle Wie West
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Nearly two decades ago, Michelle Wie West burst onto the scene of professional golf akin to that of Tiger Woods.

At the age of 12, the American become the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA Tour event and just a year later made the cut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship - becoming the youngest to do so in LPGA Tour history. Making the cut was an impressive achievement in itself but Wie West backed that up with a third round 66 that propelled her into the final group. While she was unable to claim the title, the then-13-year-old secured leading amateur honours.

Wie West turned professional in 2005 and signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike and Sony. With the weight of the golfing world's expectation weighing heavily on her shoulders, she would go on to experience the very highs and lows so often endured by professional athletes at the very top of their game.

The American reached the summit of the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings and claimed five LPGA Tour tour titles throughout her career - including Major success at the 2014 US Women's Open. 

In her early professional career and following her maiden Major victory, Wie West suffered a persistent wrist injury. So much so, it forced her out of action for prolonged period of times or resulted in her playing injured. At that time, the American felt she couldn't open up about those struggles, insistent that society demands a champion to behave in a certain manner.

"I felt like when I started, mental health wasn’t really talked about," she said on Nike's No Off-Season Podcast. "What was talked about was having a champion mindset, being strong, being a warrior. That included never breaking. That included never resting. That included laser-focused. So in my mind, seeing that, I felt like to be a champion golfer, I had to have that mindset. I had to have that mindset that never broke, never complained."

Wie West added: "I remember not telling the media really honest answers about my injuries, kind of hiding it, just because I didn’t want to feel weak." She was also the subject of criticism from fellow LPGA Tour stars Brittany Lincicome and Alena Sharp, who questioned the extent of her injury following her decision to withdraw from the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika [Sorenstam].

“Later on in my career, when I was going through more injuries, just being honest about it. Just, you know, being like ‘This hurts. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to play," she added. "It was kind of freeing because I felt like I didn’t have to put up a front during my hardest times. So it was definitely tough, but I'm really glad athletes now are really stepping out and showing you can be a champion, but also admit that you're fragile, admit that you're not perfect."

Earlier this year, Wie West announced that she will play in the 2023 US Women's Open but is not planning to compete in any other tournaments. She gave birth to her daughter, Makenna, in 2020.

James Hibbitt

James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.