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Michelle Wie West was driving it 280 yards as a 13-year old—this was her power key

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Robert Laberge

March 22, 2024

In 2003, Michelle Wie was just 13 years old and we were already featuring her in Golf Digest. (Now married, she goes by Michelle Wie West.) That year, she became the youngest player to ever make the cut at an LPGA Tour event when she played the weekend at the Kraft Nabisco Championship (now The Chevron). She shot 66 in the third round, earning a spot in the final group. A few months later, she made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open, becoming the youngest to ever achieve that feat. Though she was just 13 years old, there was already a lot about her game worth talking about. How far she hit it off the tee being a favorite topic of conversation.

In an instruction piece that was published in the 2003 October issue of Golf Digest, Wie West’s coaches at the time, Gary Gilchrist and David Leadbetter, talked about the teen’s driver swing. Gilchrist said one of the keys to Wie’s distance was the amount of width she was able to create. They worked on reaching this position at the top of the backswing:

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Gilchrist says to focus on the 90 degree angle her right arm creates. “When she gets into this position, with her left arm straight and her left shoulder pointing behind the ball, all she has to do is uncoil her upper body and turn back through the ball,” Gilchrist said.

Wie West’s swing went through several changes throughout her career, but at the beginning, it was this position that helped her achieve such prodigal distance.