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Michelle Wie West Has Always Done It Her Way

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Michelle Wie West knew at a very young age that she was going to be a professional athlete. It was never a question of whether she would go pro, it was only a matter of finding the right sport.

In a recent conversation with Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast, Wie West laughs when recalling her early process of elimination. She quickly crossed off soccer, basketball, and gymnastics. She loved hitting in tennis but didn’t have the foot speed. She loved batting in baseball but couldn’t catch. Golf ended up a perfect fit, a sport where she could doggedly pursue excellence in what she loved most in all the sports she tried: connecting stick to ball as powerfully and precisely as possible.

Many saw young Michelle Wie as a child prodigy whose parents pushed her into the sporting limelight as early and often as possible, but in reality Wie West has always been an independent thinker. Her own internal barometer of happiness has been her guiding force throughout her career, leaving her largely unfazed by critics and naysayers.

One source of her early confidence was just her sheer physical presence. At age 10 she was 5’7”, 165 lbs. and could hit the ball 275 yards.

“I was an absolute unit,” she laughingly tells O’Hara. “I loved being outside. I was a total tomboy.”

She had no qualms about being the only girl on the basketball court or the only girl on her youth baseball team, even making the all-star team in the latter. By 14 years of age, her unprecedented trajectory in golf was already well underway. She had won enough youth and adult amateur events, and was enough of a media draw, for Sony to offer her a sponsor’s invite to their 2004 PGA tournament in Hawaii.

Wie West tells O’Hara the decision to accept the invite was easy: “My mindset was ok, I played on the boys’ team in baseball. I made the all-star team. All my friends are boys. I was like a super tomboy. So I didn’t feel like that was a really bizarre thing to do.”

In that first PGA event at 14 years old, she missed the cut by one stroke, beating 47 adult men, including seven major winners. She went on to accept several PGA sponsor invites throughout her career, undeterred by critics who wrote them off as undeserved publicity stunts.

Wie West’s entire path to becoming a pro golfer was unconventional. The typical route is to play on your high school team and in junior golf events and then get recruited to a college team and transition to pro tour events. For a youngster with Wie West’s skills, a full college scholarship was all but guaranteed.

But Wie West always made up her own mind about what was best for her, and she decided she could turn pro without sacrificing her educational goals. She was regularly placing high enough to qualify for prize money, but as an amateur she wasn’t allowed to accept the rewards. That didn’t make sense to her, so she decided she would do both: become a professional golfer and still go to her dream school, Stanford University.

“I knew I wanted to go to Stanford. That was not something I was going to give up,” she tells O’Hara, at the time thinking, “I can turn pro and I have good enough grades and maybe a cool enough story that I can get into Stanford.”

So, as a sweet sixteenth birthday gift to herself, she signed contracts with Nike and Sony and officially turned pro. Two years later she was admitted to Stanford University. While many speculated that attending such a rigorous academic school would negatively impact her golf career, Wie West wasn’t concerned.

“I thought that even if it took me away from golf a little bit, it was worth it,” she tells O’Hara. Looking back, she still believes going to Stanford was one of the smartest decisions she’s ever made.

Wie West’s confidence to do things her own way has also been evident on the putting green. After a mid-career slump dropped her to 119th on the LPGA tour in putting average, she came up with a very unconventional new technique. The idea first came to her when she was paired with a much shorter player who was nailing all her putts.

“I’m using my Stanford brain here and I think the scientific reason why she is putting better than me is because her eyes are closer to the golf ball,” she recalls thinking to O’Hara, “If I get closer to the ball… I will start putting better.”

In order to accomplish this, the 6-foot-tall Wie West began leaning over almost 90 degrees in a new, aptly named “tabletop” putting stance.

She even laughed along with those commenting on the peculiar image of her tall frame bent at such an awkward angle. Scientific validity aside, the change was successful for Wie West.

“From that moment on I started feeling really comfortable and that was something that I was searching for,” she explains to O’Hara. She went on to win two LPGA events the following year, including her first Major win at the 2014 U.S. Open.

For someone who was in the national (and international) spotlight at such a young age, the fact that she’s never been all that influenced by public perception is rare and impressive. In making big decisions, Wie West has always maximized for personal happiness by confidently trusting an inner voice that has guided her on a path that’s uniquely her own.

Listen to Michelle Wie West’s full conversation with Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast here.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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