Michelle Wie West will lead a new women’s partnership initiative with golf equipment company LA Golf, aiming for equitable and fair support on and off the golf course for LPGA players.
Pledging to treat women golfers in the same respect as their male counterparts, LA Golf will provide its LPGA partners with full healthcare including mental health days, paid maternity leave, performance-based bonuses and travel concierge services.
“We’re looking into not so much as just throwing money, but what meaningful support can we provide women athletes that will make them feel like they’re taken care of,” said Wie West, who sits on the board and is an investor of LA Golf. “And all of this — it adds up, and hopefully this will help to elongate their career. They can play with less injuries. They can play with less stress and have mental health support, all of that.”
Wie West, 32, met with LA Golf CEO Reed Dickens over the past year to create an initiative based off her own experiences and observations as a professional golfer.
“The LPGA tour is doing an amazing job with daycare, maternity leave, mental health support,” Wie West said. “But the Tour is doing as much as they can; we need corporate buy-in for players. That’s why I think it’s really great that LA golf, as a corporate sponsor, wants to help change and create dialogue in this sponsorship landscape.”
After numerous discussions about how golf partnerships with brands oftentimes fall short of fully supporting an LPGA player off-the-course, Wie West and Dickens decided that they needed to create a unique model.
“The point of the LA Golf women’s initiative is that Michelle is on the board, and I gave her the authority and the green light and the legislative paper to do what she thinks needs to be done based on her experience,” Dickens said. “This is not about calculating risk, this is not about running the economic model per se. This is the right thing to do at the right time and Michelle’s the right person.”
Wie West said she didn’t fully realize the challenges that professional women golfers faced when it came to traveling from tournament to tournament, although she was aware that women weren’t being given even a fraction of what professional men received when it came to travel.
“My eyes were really opened when I traveled with my husband with the Warriors and saw how they travel,” said Wie West, who is married to Golden State Warriors executive Jonnie West. “Everything is done for them, and it’s the same on the PGA Tour, as well.
“Meanwhile, I remember hoping and praying that my golf bags would show up on the carousel at the airport. And I was fortunate to travel with a team during my playing years, but I know there are plenty of girls who don’t even have that luxury.”
Wie West announced last week that she will step back from professional golf. After competing in this week’s 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, Wie West said that the only other tournament remaining on her competitive golf calendar is the 2023 Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.
Since her LPGA rookie year in 2009, Wie West has won five tournaments and one major at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
“I wanted to let people know that ‘Hey, I’m stepping back from golf, but I’m not stepping away from the game,'” Wie West said. “I’m throwing myself even deeper into the game than I have been before and, hopefully, to make some meaningful impact.”
Wie West said she wants to create a legacy off the course and take on what she called “meaningful projects” that will make a difference for future generations of women golfers. She will spearhead a selection process of up to five professional women golfers who will be part of the 2023 LA Golf women’s team.
“I think we’re really interested in players that are interested in disrupting the space, that know to appreciate the science and technology that goes into it — players that aren’t scared to take risk and try something new,” Wie West said. “We’re hoping to create a dialogue in the golf industry and to get people talking, get the athletes talking, be like, ‘Hey, I deserve this. I’m getting this. Like, what can you provide for me? What can I do for you?'”