Michelle Wie West on Motherhood, Pain and a Possible Return to Golf

Michelle Wie West’s eyes were not hollowed by exhaustion, as one might have expected of a first-time mother of a 1-month-old. Her face was not streaked with tears, as it was 13 months ago after her injury-plagued body failed her yet again, lending a hint of finality to a golf career that had once seemed limitless.

This week, Wie West, 30, looked and sounded refreshed during a virtual news conference to announce her appointment as an assistant captain for the 2021 Solheim Cup. She talked about motherhood and hinted at a possible return to competition and laughed off any mention of her rested appearance. “It’s concealer and coffee, the two C’s,” she said with a laugh.

Over Wie West’s right shoulder hung one of several self-portraits she had painted over the years, this one of a woman in black-and-white with her hair piled high atop her head, set against a pastel, sponged background. The unframed painting, one of a few decorating the walls of her San Francisco home, exudes a serenity that was absent in her earlier portraits, like the one from her teens of a woman with long black hair, sad eyes and a boarded-up mouth.

Wie West has been in the public eye since 2000, when, at age 10, she became the youngest player to qualify for the United States Women’s Amateur. Over the past two decades she has won five L.P.G.A. titles, including the 2014 United States Women’s Open, earned an undergraduate degree in communications from Stanford and nearly made the cut in a PGA Tour event. Along the way she became a sort of Rorschach test for parents who saw her story as a childhood lost in the pursuit of riches or one saved by an emphasis on education; a child’s passion nurtured by loving, caring parents or one undermined by their active involvement.

To become a parent is often to see your own childhood in sharper relief. Wie West said she hasn’t thought intently about how she will raise her daughter, Makenna Kamalei Yoona West, though she is sure of this: She hopes to give her the siblings that she, an only child, grew up yearning for, and the fluency in Korean that she is so glad her South Korean-born parents insisted upon.

“I remember I used to hate my parents for making me go to Korean school on Saturdays,” Wie West said as her daughter made cooing noises while napping in her lap. “But that is something that I’ll definitely be doing, because being able to speak Korean is very important to me.”

Her daughter, who arrived four weeks before her due date, already has a custom-made wedge and putter. Wie West’s husband, Jonnie, an executive with the Golden State Warriors, played basketball through college, at West Virginia, the alma mater of his father, Jerry.

“My husband is such a golf nerd, I’m sure he’s going to try to put a golf club in her hands as soon as possible, just because I really think he wants to play with her one day,” Wie West said. “We’ll see whether she grabs a basketball or a golf club. Hopefully we’ll put her in a lot of sports.”

Wie West’s last competitive round of golf was in June 2019, at the Women’s P.G.A. Championship at Hazeltine, outside Minneapolis. It was a largely joyless experience. Wie West shot consecutive rounds in the 80s to miss the cut. After her opening 12-over 84, she was disconsolate about her playing future.

Her surgically-repaired right hand was not getting better, she said then, and there had been so many injuries before that — to her neck, back, hip, knee and ankle — she had lost faith in her body’s ability to function.

“I was very depressed,” she said. “I felt like my body was letting me down. I was in so much pain.”

She married West two months later. The happiness she felt in her personal life counteracted the sadness she felt about her stalled golf career. With her playing path obstructed by injuries, Wie West started down another road, signing on for on-camera work with Golf Channel and CBS, including as part of its Masters coverage.

And then she found out she was pregnant.

“I was so scared, so worried,” Wie West said. “I had zero confidence in my body being able to carry a baby to term.”

As Makenna grew inside her, Wie West marveled at her body’s capabilities. “Going from thinking, ‘My body’s completely done, it can’t do anything’ to ‘I created a whole human from scratch,’ it’s completely shifted my relationship with my body. I have so much more confidence in it now.”

Having delivered a healthy baby during a pandemic, Wie West can be forgiven for thinking her body is now capable of anything, including a return to L.P.G.A. competition.

“I used to think my wrist was hurting during a round until I went through labor,” she joked.

Wie West has resumed practicing, carting her daughter to the range with her between feedings. A return to competitive golf before the end of the calendar year isn’t out of the question, she said, but only if the spread of the coronavirus is under control. “It just really depends on the state of the world right now because her health comes first,” Wie West said.

The Warriors, who owned the worst record in the Western Conference when the regular season was suspended in March, failed to advance to the N.B.A. playoffs in Florida, which Wie West considered a blessing disguised as a bummer.

“There was a scenario where if they went to Orlando in the bubble and I was home by myself, I was quarantined, my parents couldn’t come, I could have been a single mother for a couple months all by myself,” Wie West said, “and that was a scary thought.”

In two weeks, the PGA Tour will converge on San Francisco for the P.G.A. Championship. The field will include the former champion Justin Thomas, who is credited with helping to bring Wie and West together. Both consider him a friend, and each surreptitiously reached out to him for intelligence on the other after their initial meeting.

His matchmaking role notwithstanding, Thomas should not count on meeting the baby while he is in town next month.

“We’re not allowing anyone to come,” Wie West said.

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