OCALA, Fla. – Michelle Wie hiked small mountains in Hawaii and Arizona in the offseason.
She made a guest appearance in the filming of a “Hawaii Five-0” episode that will air Feb. 20.
“I’m officially an actress now,” she cracked Monday at the Coates Golf Championship, the LPGA’s season opener. “I was going to go to the SAG Awards, but, you know ...”
She spent Christmas in New York, scoring front-row seats at a Knicks game, where she met Michael J. Fox and Cedric the Entertainer. She beat Charles Barkley in a game of beer pong. She spent New Year’s in the Bahamas, did a Nike shoot and also traveled to California to see friends.
“I was in a lot of airplanes,” Wie said.
Wie went almost six weeks without touching a club this offseason, other than for photographs for the Nike shoot.
The common denominator in all of this?
“I had so much fun,” Wie said. “I definitely feel refreshed.”
You need that when you’re about to resume the rigorous pursuit of Stacy Lewis, the best American in the game. The last three weeks for Wie have pretty much been devoted to keeping up with Lewis, literally and figuratively.
Wie and Lewis live in South Florida, where they both train under David Donatucci at the Florida Institute of Performance in Palm Beach Gardens. While they’ve become friends, Wie can’t help keeping track of Lewis out of the corner of her eye when they’re at the institute together. Wie joked about that after a practice round Monday at Golden Ocala.
“We come at the same times,” Wie said. “One day, we actually had the same workout. I was like, `Wait a second, I think I’m doing that next.’ I made sure I did the same weights as her.”
Wie, who looks so much physically stronger than the more petite Lewis, said it’s not easy keeping up with the weights Lewis uses.
“She kills at the gym,” Wie said. “She did this one exercise with the hand gripper, and she had, I think, almost 90 pounds on it. I got there, and I’m like, `This can’t be right.’ ... Oh my God, it was so hard. But I was determined to do the same weights as her.”
Wie broke through for her best year as a pro last season, winning the Lotte Championship in Hawaii in April and then the U.S. Women’s Open in June. If not for a finger injury in the second half of the season, she might have made a stronger run at Lewis for Rolex Player of the Year. Wie missed almost three months last year with the injury.
“My top priority this year is to stay healthy,” Wie said.
Wie will need to be at her best to challenge Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Lydia Ko and No. 3 Lewis as the best players in the game. With her big year, Wie moved to No. 6 in the world rankings. While she says her focus is on getting better and being more consistent, she knows who she has to beat to take the game’s biggest prizes.
Seeing Lewis work so hard in the gym is a constant reminder.
“We’re very competitive,” Wie said. “We definitely want to beat each other, but at the same time I’m very proud of her accomplishments. She inspires me, she motivates me, but it’s great to see a fellow American doing so well, and she’s such a great person . . . . It’s never competitive to the point where we want to tear each other down.”
There are highly competitive natures at work there, but mutual admiration, too. That came through when Wie held off Lewis in a tight battle to win the U.S. Women’s Open. Afterward, Lewis talked about how she respects and even learns from the way Wie handles scrutiny and criticism.
“I think the biggest thing for Michelle is she’s grown in confidence, and her ability to just kind of take control of her life and her game,” Lewis said. “That’s what you’re seeing, somebody that knows how to practice, knows how to prepare, knows what she needs to do in her off weeks, knows when she needs to shut it down and go to the beach and hang out with her friends. She’s learning how to take control of her life, and that’s what you’re seeing on the course.
“You’re seeing a happy kid going out there, that’s super talented, that hasn’t played her best golf yet, and I’m excited to see what she does, because I think she’s going to raise the bar even higher the next couple years.”
Lewis sees balance making Wie more formidable.
“I’m excited for this year,” Wie said. “Just working on building upon last year . . . I want to be consistent, but at the same time I want to get a little bit better each and every day, not make a huge stride, not try to be a lot better every day. If I just kind of move forward just a little bit, even if it’s really, really slow, that’s all I want to do.”