Once Phenom Wie Suggests Early Retirement
I have a special problem with the cosmos when it short circuits young people on a mission, by treating them as old people. Many of us have followed the Michelle Wie saga for decades, or at least it feels that way. We watched her take on the pressure of a teen phenom able to compete with the men. There have been highlights here and there, including her first major win in 2014. A lot of people have attributed various items of baggage to Wie, but it has never been hers – it is ours. I believe that it is time to let it all go.
Michelle Wie has fought the injury demons on a regular basis since becoming a pro all those years back. Now, at the age of 29, she has played with back, neck, knee, ankle, left and right wrist injuries. Reenter competition a moment too soon, and those demons rise up again, sidelining a player for another extended period. Meanwhile, the clock eats up your youth and spirit. It can’t be much fun.
As spectators, our collective has not helped much. While Wie is out there swinging away, we have played Search for Tomorrow and Guiding Light with her personal and professional highs and lows. Some may say that we have the right to do that because we live in a free speech society and all that. I don’t get a charge out of treating a person I don’t know as a vicarious receptacle for abuse over my own own highs and lows.
Is there one item from that list of injured anatomy that is not essential to playing a professional level of golf? Birdies with a bad wrist? No better than a track star with a debilitating sciatica condition. Wie has about had it with being injured. Part of her wants to play, and find a way of recapturing the joy of playing well. Another part, and I know this from experience, is soul-weary from fighting injuries that forbid her potential from showing itself.
Six months ago, Wie went in for wrist surgery. She came back for the 2019 season, missed three cuts, withdrew from one tournament, and spent a lot of time in the 80s. Practice was severely limited, and somewhere out on the course, she had to realize that a mistake had been made. Before the age of 30, Wie has suggested the possibility of early retirement from the game, authentically observing, “I don’t know how much more I have left in me.” I am so very familiar with that phrase, and I hurt for her. The part of her that wants to fight on does its best to turn the bad days into something enjoyable other than a low score.
The immediate plan is to take the rest of the year off, which means missing more majors. If she comes back at all, she’s going to give it all the time it needs first. Even wrists can heal, and if anyone can come back from injuries, Wie is certainly in the right age group to do it. How fast the spirit heals is a difficult question to answer, and it impossible to know what decisions will be made next year. As a healthy player, she could go many years more. playing top level golf. Maybe a visit to Laura Davies, Julie Inkster or Karrie Webb would be helpful if she’s feeling the time crunch.
As for us, let’s turn off As the World Turns. Michelle Wie doesn’t belong to us in any sense, and doesn’t owe us anything. Whatever she’s being kicked around for, drop it. As spectators, we might elevate her above a stand-in prop for our own problems, and try some empathy for the real life-and-blood time awaiting her. We’ve all seen those tearful teen “leave my star alone” rants. If you must, consider this a more dry-eyed, reflective, mature and healthy version of one of those. Whether she comes back or not, it’s time to pull for Michelle.