THERE'S a lot of chatter about imperial weights and measures at the moment. Which is all quite fitting, really. The erudite depth of this column, for instance, tends to be measured in fathoms on the basis that not many folk can fathom it out.

Despite leaving many a reader scratching their head like Stan Laurel trying to solve the Boolean Pythagorean Triples Problem, this page has been going now for the best part of 12 years. 

Some of you have possibly chalked off those years, in the same, sighing way a glum prison inmate wearily chalks off the days of their punishment on the walls of an austere cell. It’s been quite a sentence hasn’t it?

In the world of golf, meanwhile, Michelle Wie West’s stretch as a touring professional is coming to an end. Now, how’s that for a spectacularly tenuous link to this week’s offering?

She will enjoy her swansong in the US Women’s Open, which starts on Thursday at Pine Needles, and then step away from the LPGA Tour to pursue a variety of other golf-related ventures.

Wie West is only 32 but she’s been around for so long, you just about expect footage of her early outings to feature on the fusty archives of the British Pathe newsreels. She was, after all, playing in USGA events at the age of just 10.

At 12, she played in an LPGA Tour event and at 14 she came within a shot of making the cut among the men on the PGA Tour. Wie West was the child prodigy who was going to exert a Tiger Woods-like tyranny over the women’s game. It didn’t quite work out that way, of course.

Wie West was very good, very early and was ranked No.3 in the world by the age of 16. Between the ages of 13 and 16, she had played in 12 major championships and had racked up half a dozen top-five finishes, three of them as an amateur.

The Wie West phenomenon was quite something and brought huge attention to golf. When she accepted an invitation to play in the 2005 John Deere Classic – a men’s PGA Tour event which offered places into The Open for the leading finishers otherwise not exempt – the prospect of her becoming the first woman to play in golf’s most venerated major had all and sundry drooling like bloodhounds gazing at a plate of links sausages.

The sideshow of her competing against the men did, however, become something of an exercise in exploitation as the whole thing developed into the kind of roll-up, roll-up point-and-gawp spectacle that PT Barnum used to promote.

It had started with the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in her native Hawaii in 2004 but, after she turned pro the week before her 16th birthday a year later and signed multi-million dollar contracts with Nike and Sony, the bandwagon rumbled into Europe and the Far East.

Under the constant glare of her parents, BJ and Bo, who seemed to orchestrate her every move and apparently went from overprotective guardians to meddling busybodies, Wie West’s cameo appearances alongside her male counterparts often made for cringeworthy viewing. The pressure and the hype was relentless and did nothing for Wie, or the women’s game as a whole.

She was written off and put down even before her career had really been given an opportunity to develop.

The fact that she enjoyed something of a renaissance and claimed her one and only major crown at the 2014 US Women’s Open was a defiant celebration of her drive, determination, desire and unquestionable talent.

In a topsy-turvy professional career, her progress was ham-strung by niggling injuries and numerous surgical procedures. Her tearful outpouring after grimacing and wincing to an opening 84 – her worst round on the LPGA Tour – during the Women’s PGA Championship in 2019 painfully illustrated a woman at the end of her tether.

Confronting athletic decline and facing up to the prospect of career-ending ailments is not something any sportsperson wants to encounter. Ending your playing days on your own terms can be hard enough; being forced to bring the curtain down having been betrayed by your body adds a cruel twist to the process.

Wie West has five LPGA Tour titles, including that maiden major, on her cv. For many golfers, that would be a pretty stellar career. When it comes to Wie West, however, it’s viewed as a fairly modest return for a player who seemed destined for greater feats. 

In this game of what-ifs, maybes and might-have-beens, though, Wie West, now a mother to a one-year-old daughter, remains content with her lot.

“I don’t have any regrets because I feel like I’ve always learned from every mistake that I’ve made,” she told Golfweek over the weekend. “I feel like even if it was a huge major fail, at least it makes for a good story now.”

Wie West grew up in the spotlight and came under the kind of microscopic scrutiny often reserved for organisms in a petri dish.

That she managed to earn a degree at Stanford University while playing full-time on the LPGA Tour was perhaps one of her most impressive accomplishments.

Having spent over two decades making headlines inside the ropes, Wie West is now preparing for life outside of them. The story continues.