It’s been nearly two decades since Michelle Wie became the youngest person ever to qualify for U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, but the Asian-American golfer said she’s maintained the same joy in her sport today as she had when she was 10 years old.
“My mom was a single-figure handicapper, and she taught me and my dad how to play. I started playing at age four, and I loved it from the get-go,” said Wie, 29. “It was a real family thing, which we all loved doing together. There was never a particular moment when it went from fun to being a career, as I still find playing golf fun!”
Wie, who grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, as an only child to South Korean immigrants, was only 13 when she became the youngest person to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 2003. She turned pro at 16 and in 2014 won her first major at the U.S. Women’s Open — a moment she said has been the proudest in her professional career.
“I feel like I have been very lucky to have received so much support and encouragement,” she said. “I think my parents have a lot to do with this, instilling in me the confidence to believe I could achieve anything I put my mind to. I am very proud to be an Asian-American, and I try to be a good role model for all aspiring young golfers, whether male or female, and whatever their heritage.”
Wie said she considers her parents the most outstanding role models in her life, explaining they have helped her keep things in perspective amid her professional success.
“They also played a huge role in making sure I stayed balanced and committed to my education whatever was happening on the golf course,” Wie said.
Wie earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Stanford University in March 2012. She continued her professional golf career throughout her college studies, though under NCAA rules was unable to play on Stanford’s golf team. Maintaining a career and achieving academic success was no small feat, but Wie said it changed her as a person for the better.
“I think it has made me super disciplined and organized, as you have to pack a lot into every day,” she said. “This was especially important when I was at Stanford, trying to balance a full class schedule with a professional golf career. I have also had to learn patience through the injury setbacks I have had.”
Wie made history in 2004 when she got an exemption to play in the Sony Open in Hawaii, becoming the fourth, and youngest, female to play in a men’s PGA TOUR event. She’s played in several other men’s events throughout her career while also competing on the LPGA Tour, but she’s never treated the two types of tournaments differently.
“I haven’t played in a men’s event in a while, but when I did, I absolutely loved it,” she said. “I was so young at the time that every opportunity to play in a tournament was exciting and a big adventure, whether it was a men’s or women’s event.”
Melinda Carter, [email protected]