PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Michelle Wie West’s husband, Jonnie, tested positive for COVID-19 just a couple days before last year’s U.S. Women’s Open. Wie West tested negative for four days and felt it was somewhat of a miracle that she was able to compete at Pine Needles as she transitioned away from a competitive career on the LPGA, though it stung to be across the country from her husband, daughter and parents.
“I just remember sitting in my hotel room thinking, this is not the way to go,” said the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion. “This is so sad.”
The 78th U.S. Women’s Open, July 6-9 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, will provide the chance for Wie West to say a proper goodbye in her beloved Bay Area, with her husband on the bag and the rest of her family watching every shot. It’s fitting that the most well-known player in the women’s game in recent years will take part in what could be the most important championship in U.S. Women’s Open history.
On Tuesday, Wie West took part in Women’s Open media day, playing nine holes there for the first time in blustery conditions.
“I didn’t dream of this to be the last one,” she said, “but if I could this would be the way to go.”
As Wie West got her first glimpse of the iconic course, Annika Sorenstam announced on Twitter that she had accepted a special exemption to compete at Pebble, making an historic week in the women’s game all the more special.
“I think this is a dream-changer,” said USGA CEO Mike Whan of the U.S. Women’s Open coming to Pebble Beach for the first time. “I think this really matters to the people playing, but the real impact of this is the girls that are thinking about playing or aren’t really sure what they think about golf.”
History won’t just be made on the course as the USGA announced record-breaking television coverage (26 hours) and live prime time network coverage over the weekend on NBC. In addition, the media and fans will be able to track every shot that’s hit at Pebble Beach as the USGA utilizes the PGA Tour’s ShotLink scoring system for the first time at a women’s event.
The message: This isn’t just a big week in women’s golf. It’s a big week in women’s sport.
Former U.S. soccer star Brandi Chastain and Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, who became the first Asian-American to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympic competition in 1992, joined major champion Morgan Pressel on a panel to talk about the potential impact of the historic week. Pressel will be lead analyst for NBC.
Chastain became a household name in the U.S. after scoring the winning goal at the 1999 World Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Northern California native believes there are many things that could be taken from that history-making Cup, which broke records in attendance, television ratings and interest.
“I think No. 1 is the leadership that said we see what could be,” said Chastain, “and we must put it out there in a way that’s brave and bold.”
The Women’s Open at Pebble Beach could be a milestone for women’s sport, much like the Rose Bowl was in 1999.
The 54-year-old Chastain grew emotional when she talked about her personal connection to Pebble, where her grandfather took her out to watch the Crosby as an 8-year-old. They’d walk the course together and eat strawberry shortcake along the 18th fairway.
“As I was sitting there listening to Mike (Whan),” said a teary-eyed Chastain, “I realized I would be bringing my two granddaughters, and we’re going to have the same walk.”
Wie West, who will have her daughter Makenna onsite, had originally planned to start grinding on her game in April, but got busy and now plans to start this month. Jonnie, who works for the Golden State Warriors and plays to about a 2-handicap, will caddie for her for the first time at Pebble, though he has looped at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am a couple times as well as a Web.com event for Steph Curry.
“I know I play my best golf when I have fun,” she said, “so having my husband on the bag is going to be key for that.”