Every so often a young athlete appears to come out of nowhere and take the sports world by storm. We've seen it with Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Michael Phelps and more. Back in 2005, 15 year old golfer Michelle Wie, did just that. While you are probably familiar with her life on the course, let's get to know more about the life of golf star Michelle Wie.
Early life and Introduction to Golf
Wie was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Korean parents. Her father was a professor at the University of Hawaii and her mother was a former professional golfer. Because of her mom's love for the sport, Wie was introduced to golf at a young age.
It was clear from the start that Wie had potential to go pro. At the age of 10, she became the youngest person to ever qualify for a USGA Amateur's Championship and at age 11 became the youngest golfer to qualify for an LPGA event.
Wie was 15-years-old when she participated in her first LPGA event. She would have finished in fourth place if she wasn't disqualified for an illegal ball drop. After four top five finishes in her first year, Wie was ranked seventh in the Rolex World Golfing Rankings. Despite not being an official member of the LPGA Tour, Wie was already making a name for herself. After her first year as a pro, Time asked her to give a prediction for her 2006 season, to which Wie replied "I'm going to win a tournament this year. I can feel it coming. And I think that it's going to be a totally fabulous year."
Although she didn't win a tournament in 2006, she began making the big bucks. Michelle Wie was ranked fourth on the Forbes 20 Under 25 List. The only young sports stars to earn more than her that year were LeBron James, Reggie Bush and Maria Sharapova.
In 2006, she also played in tournaments against men, including the SK Telecom Open in South Korea. Despite being the talk of the tour, Wie's first few years were a struggle. She missed cut after cut, had a couple early withdrawals and missed four months due to injuries.
After three years of being a professional golfer, Wie turned 18 and became an official member of the LPGA Tour. Her first tournament as an official member was the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, where she finished in second place behind Angela Stanford. Later that year, Wie was selected to compete for Team USA at the Solheim Cup. She posted the best scores of any American and lead the team to victory. Wie won her first tournament at the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico, where she finished two strokes ahead of LPGA legend Paula Creamer.
Success on the golf course, career earnings and net worth
After grabbing her first tournament win, Wie really turned things around. She made cuts and finished toward the top of the leaderboard more frequently. In 2014, she nabbed her first major win at the U.S. Women's Open. After her victory, Wie reflected on her struggles over the years, saying "I think the fact that I struggled so much, the fact that I kind of went through a hard period of my life, the fact that this trophy is right next to me, it means so much more to me than it ever would have when I was 15."
Since winning the U.S. Women's Open, Wie has only won a single tournament. The closest she came to winning another major, was at the Women's British Open in 2015, where she finished in third.
With five career wins and 59 top 10s under her belt, Michelle Wie has won over $6.8 million on the LPGA Tour. Celebrity Net Worth estimates her net worth at $12 million, but as is often the case with those celebrity websites, take the data with a grain of salt.
Michelle Wie at Stanford
Because Michelle Wie was already a pro, she could not compete on Stanford's golf team. Balancing the lifestyle of a pro athlete and a Stanford student is no easy feat. Wie would attend classes during the fall and winter semesters, but would leave campus during the golf season. Her original plan was to take six years to graduate, but the fear of missing out with her friends propelled her to intensify her course load. She remained on campus for the 2011 spring semester and would take exams while on the road for tournaments.
Wie accelerated her graduation time, but had to stay for an extra semester after her fourth year. After four and a half years at Stanford, Wie graduated with a degree in communications.
Michelle Wie's Husband and Family Life
Wie is married to Jonnie West, the President of Basketball Operations for the Golden State Warriors and son of NBA legend Jerry West. West attended West Virginia where he received a degree in sports management and an MBA. He was an associate general manager for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State's G-League affiliate before landing the job with the NBA Warriors.
The two married in 2019 and had a child in 2020.
Michelle Wie's Return to Golf
In March 2021, Wie made her return to the golf course. After almost two years away from the sport, she played in the Kia Classic at Aviara in Carlsbad. When asked how she felt about returning, Wie said, "I’m really most excited about getting my competitive juices going again and being that fierce competitor that I know I am.” Although she didn't make the cut, it's awesome to see Wie back on the course.
Wie thought she would retire when she found out she was pregnant. “I thought there was no chance of coming back." Wie said the fact that she was having a daughter changed her perspective on retiring. "I want to show her in real time that I can — that I play golf.’ It’s one thing to have her watch YouTube videos, but it’s another thing to have her watch me with her own eyes. Seeing me go out there, work out hard, and try to lead by example.” Wie takes a ton of pleasure in being a role model for her daughter.
Wie officially announced that she will not be competing in the Lotte Championship at Kapolei, an event she won in 2014. While we're not sure when we will see Wie play next, it's safe to say that the sport is more exciting with her competing.