RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Michelle Wie West’s return to the ANA Inspiration has brought back a flood of memories.
It was Thursday morning, four holes into Wie West’s return to Mission Hills Country Club, when she nearly made a hole-in-one at the par-3 14th hole. All she could think about in that moment was Oreos.
“I'm pretty sure I yelled out, lifetime Oreos!” Wie West said about her near ace on Thursday. “Bolted back to being 13, getting excited about Oreos.”
That’s where Wie West’s mind was in 2003, when the 13-year-old first competed in the ANA Inspiration. This week, 18 years after she made her debut as an amateur, she carded a 2-under-par 70.
“I have to say, today was a bit like when I was 13,” Wie West said. “I kind of hit it all over the place and grinded a bit out there. But that feels good. I think that's kind of how I play. I don't know if I hit it further when I was 13. I keep looking back on some of the drives I used to hit back then and be like, I can't believe I used to hit it this far.”
Thursday, the 31-year-old had a youthful exuberance as she gushed with the media about her near ace and memories of Oreos. She rolled in putts from long range and scrambled her way to three consecutive birdies in the middle of her round. It was a different Wie West than the one who, at times in her career, has been overly technical about her putting set up or stance. She played with feel and the natural ability she displayed in her first trip to Mission Hills, when she finished low amateur at T-9 in her first appearance.
When Wie West made her tournament debut, the major was sponsored by Kraft Nabisco, who often provided their products to players – including Oreos. Though Terry Wilcox, the long-time tournament director who oversaw the championship in 2003, says he can’t recall a lifetime supply of Oreos ever being given away the week of the event.
But that’s the mind of a teenager, who was wrapped up in the magnitude of the moment.
Wie West made the trip from her home in Hawaii to the mainland, 18 years ago, to compete for the first time in one of golf’s major championships. It was also the first time she ever ate an Oreo cookie. It was a week that took on a life of its own in the mind of the then 13-year-old – and still resonates nearly two decades later.
“Looking back, I was a kid. I still feel like a kid,” said Wie, who gave birth to a daughter in 2020. “Having a baby definitely puts a different perspective on everything. I'm more excited to go home and see her than I was about my round, to be honest.”
It was her daughter, Mackenna, who inspired Wie West’s return to the LPGA Tour at last week’s Kia Classic. Otherwise, she would have likely called it quits. Wie West had last competed at the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship where she withdrew with a wrist injury, one of many that plagued her throughout her career. But Mackenna inspired her mother to return with a new purpose: to show her daughter that mom can compete, and win, against the best players in the world.
“This place is, as you all know, really a special place to me,” Wie West said. “To be back here, especially with a baby here as well, it's a really special place.”
Wie West’s solid start has opened the door for her to recapture the promise she held nearly two decades ago, when she made her first trip to Mission Hills. Back to a simpler time, when she was more excited in post-round interviews to talk about her earrings than her golf game. A time before all the illnesses and injuries sidelined her from the game she loved. A time when a lifetime supply of Oreos seemed like a dream.