How much can LPGA star Michelle Wie teach tennis pro Eugenie Bouchard in one golf lesson?
July 20, 2017
By D'Arcy Maine
Michelle Wie always had aspirations to go pro. In fact, her earliest childhood memories growing up in Honolulu all included sports.
However, despite what you know about the LPGA star, her first dream was to become a professional tennis player.
"I liked tennis more than golf. I only practiced golf if the tennis courts got rained out," Wie said. "I was about 7 or 8 years old, and I was really serious about tennis. But I had slow feet, and I couldn't get to the ball."
"If the ball came to me, I would be set, but I can't get to the ball. I remember one day getting so frustrated, I threw my tennis balls away, and said, 'I'm done with this!'"
From that point, Wie permanently swapped out her tennis racket for golf clubs, and the rest is (very well-documented) history. But despite now being one of the most recognizable faces on the LPGA Tour, the 27-year-old got to live out her childhood dreams on Monday as she teamed up with tennis star Eugenie Bouchard in New York.
At an event sponsored by Nike, which endorses both athletes, the famous duo took turns learning the other's sport in lower Manhattan -- all while being followed by a film crew, members of the press and the occasional gawking fan. "You know, just a totally normal hang out," Wie said with a laugh.
Despite their fame and shared endorsement, Wie and Bouchard, 23, had never met before Monday's happenings. However, they quickly seemed like old friends as they joked with each other, paid homage to Britney Spears and commiserated over their grueling travel schedules.
Before getting the day's activities underway, the pair picked out Nike golf apparel to wear. Then Wie promptly cut her shirt into a crop top -- just days after the LPGA's announcement of a new dress code. Though Wie noted that she respects and understands the regulation, neither her outfit nor Bouchard's would likely be deemed acceptable by the organization. But, Wie is hopeful they might be in the future.
"I truly respect our tour's wishes, but maybe in a couple of years we can look back at this [dress code] and revamp it," Wie said. "But for now, we still have a lot of cute golf clothes. I always tell the LPGA, I'll do a better job at keeping my skirts longer, but it's like a 'wink, wink.'"
Golf with Coach Wie
The duo took to the driving range, located on the top level of the Chelsea Piers sporting complex. Bouchard noted that she'd swung a golf club once before that moment, at summer camp when she was a kid, but was excited to learn more. While she has been exclusively focused on tennis since a young age, the Canadian was confident in her natural athleticism and jumped at the chance to learn from Wie.
"I was really excited when I heard about this [opportunity]," Bouchard said. "I was like, 'Oh my god, Michelle Wie!'"
In consideration of the modest space, in comparison to the average 18-hole golf course, Bouchard went with a 9-iron opposed to a driver. Initially concerned about whether she should use right- or left-handed clubs -- she's right-handed but thought she might be more left-dominant because of how she holds her racket on the backhand -- she ultimately opted for the former. While Bouchard's first few swings showed her lack of experience, it wasn't long before she got the hang of it and started hitting the ball far and straight -- one shot went past the 153-yard marker. Wie consistently gave advice about keeping her eye on the ball at all times and how to position her arms during play.
"I'm really happy with how I did," Bouchard said. "Getting some excellent advice from a professional golfer helped me a lot. [Wie] was a great coach, and she gave me a couple of technical pointers and helpful specifics which allowed me to focus on the swing."
Wie was equally enthused about Bouchard's efforts.
"She did great," Wie said. "I really wasn't expecting a lot because, as she said, she has never played golf before. I've taken people who have never played and it takes over an hour just to get them into the first position, but she got it. She's athletic, so she picked it up quickly and hit the ball really long and straight. It was impressive."
When the lesson was over, the two were supposed to take a lunch break. However, Bouchard was so enamored with the new sport that she continued to hit on her own, well into the allotted break. She ultimately stopped after hitting a long shot. While those watching were impressed, she shrugged and said it wasn't her best as she walked inside to eat.
Tennis with Coach Bouchard
After their abbreviated lunch break and an outfit change, the two (and their entourage) headed down the street to the tennis courts at Hudson River Park. As the courts are public, and right next to a busy walkway, they instantly attracted attention and more than a few requests for selfies. They both seemed to take it all in stride and were unfazed. Wanting to return the favor after Wie's lesson, Bouchard took her coaching duties seriously and asked to see Wie's tennis swing before the two officially took to the court. She almost immediately made a suggestion for Wie to keep her racket in a more closed position. They then began to volley, and Wie's old passion for the sport seemed to return.
Before long, the two were consistently rallying the ball, and Wie -- who claimed to have slow feet -- even managed to return some balls that didn't come directly her way. With the heat radiating from the concrete court and a growing crowd outside, Bouchard gave some pointers and Wie seemed to take each one to heart. And, of course, the fun-loving pair also made sure to include their best tennis grunts throughout -- at one point forcing Bouchard to stop because she was laughing so hard.
"She did well," Bouchard said. "We worked on her swing. She had that racket open face a little too much. I guess a bit like golf."
"We focused on trying to keep it a bit more closed, and I tried to get her to move her feet more. Michelle was making contact with the ball really nicely. It was better than I thought. I was impressed."
For Wie, it was likely as close as she'll ever get to her goal of becoming a professional tennis player, and she loved every minute of it.
"It was so much fun," Wie said. "I felt like I lived out my childhood dreams. I got to play tennis against Genie Bouchard! It was awesome."
Both expressed interest in attending each other's events in the future and hope to continue with their respective new sports. Despite their success during Monday's lessons, neither has any plans of quitting their day jobs any time soon.
"This was fun because it takes you out of your element and makes you appreciate other athletes," Wie said. "But honestly, it makes me realize, I'll stick to what I know!"