U.S. Solheim Cup team captain Pat Hurst didn’t have to ask Michelle Wie West to be an assistant. It was the other way around.
“Michelle called me early on,” Hurst said when she announced that Wie West would join Angela Stanford as Hurst’s assistant captains for the 2021 matches to be held at Inverness Club in Toledo. “(Michelle) said, ‘If you haven't picked your assistants, would you please consider me?’ I told her, ‘You know what, we'll be chatting soon enough. Give me a little bit of time.’ So, I called her up and we set up an appointment to talk.”
Wie West confirmed that story, telling media during a Zoom press conference, “I was so excited. I kind of predicted (Pat would be named as captain) just because she was such a great assistant captain (for Juli Inkster) the last two times. I was thinking she'd be a great captain. When I actually heard it, I was like, this would be amazing. I would love to be assistant captain under her.”
Hurst agreed with that assessment. “(Michelle) was in my pod two different times and I know what she's like,” Hurst said. “I know she's very patriotic, loves the red, white and blue just like I do, and her intensity is there. All the players love her. They respect her. That's what I need.”
Hurst has acknowledged that she is sticking with the pod system, the one created by Paul Azinger at the 2008 Ryder Cup and perfected by Inkster during her three stints as Solheim Cup captain. Hurst was, as Wie West put it, “pod mom” for four of the 12 Americans on Inkster’s teams. Now, it will be Wie West and Stanford who get their respective pods ready.
Wie West will most certainly be respected. And her command presence remains evident in every room she enters.
She last played the tour a little more than a year ago at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship where a nagging hand injury led to a tearful missed cut. Once she announced she would take some time away to heal, Wie West married basketball executive Jonnie West. Last month, the couple welcomed a daughter, Makenna, to the family.
Wie West insists that she will play the LPGA Tour again, telling reporters, “I just want the experience of Makenna watching me play, hopefully watching me come down the stretch to win a golf tournament,” she said. “That would mean everything to me because I want her to grow up and become a strong woman. Being a good role model to my daughter is really important to me, and showcasing being a strong athlete, being a woman athlete, being on the LPGA Tour, and having her see it in person I think is very different from her seeing it on YouTube or in news articles. That's something that Tiger got to experience with the Masters, his son watching (his win) live.
“That's definitely something I aspire to do,” Wie West said. “That's kind of the reason why I want to come back and play now. I guess my perspective has kind of shifted.
“But with regards to being assistant captain, I just -- especially because Pat is captain - I really wanted to be assistant under her, have that honor, and obviously in the future sometime down the road perhaps be a captain as well. That would be a huge honor. So, for me to have this experience to learn from the very best is just so great.”
Wie West, who has competed on five Solheim Cup teams, is hitting balls now between baby feedings. She is also doing television work, providing studio commentary and analysis with Golf Channel while adjusting to the changes that come with being a new wife and mother. Family, especially Makenna, is her first priority. Nothing comes close. But she has always been a woman of diverse interests and complex passions. And more team golf is still in her sites.
“I definitely want to compete again,” Wie West said. “It just depends really on the state of the world more than the state of my game at this point. But it's been so much fun going out and playing and having (Makenna) on the range with me and all that, just playing again and being healthy and feeling good. I just enjoy being back.
“Whether or not I'm going to be a playing assistant or not, I've talked to Pat about that, and that's a bridge that we'll cross when we get there, if we even do get there. But I'll leave the decision completely up to Pat.
“That's so far down the road and that's so just not -- I mean, it's not predictable at all. But it's her decision. If she wants me to play, I'll play; if she doesn't want me to play and only be an assistant, I'm fine either way.”
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