The assertion got here on a Tuesday in April almost 11 years in the past: “Lorena Ochoa confirms her retirement from the LPGA.”
The celebrated participant who gained over the lots with her huge recreation and infectious appeal was saying goodbye to golf.
While there’s something to be stated about an athlete going out on her phrases and in her time, it didn’t make the second any much less jarring. Ochoa was simply 28 years outdated and had spent 158 consecutive weeks atop the rankings when she sat earlier than a swarm of media in Mexico City and, by way of tears, defined why she was leaving the sport. The blow of shedding such a legend was plain.
“I’m just crushed,” tv analyst Judy Rankin stated then. “We won’t get to see her play golf. Mostly, we won’t get to see her.”
In eight years on tour, Ochoa delighted followers throughout the United States and Mexico. Yet she made no secret about her need to someday begin a household and luxuriate in on a regular basis life. That want ultimately outweighed no matter was left of a profession that generated 27 LPGA Tour titles, together with two majors.
Ochoa knew it was time
More than a decade later, Ochoa, now a mom of three, appears to be like again with no regrets.
“People, they think that it was something really, really hard to do,” she stated throughout a current episode of the “En Fuego” podcast. “For me, it was not hard. It was something that came out easily. … I promised myself when I see clearly that I want to get married and I’m ready to have kids, I’m going to step away. I also promised myself I’m going to play golf and I’m going to give it everything, 100 percent. But when golf is not my priority anymore, I’m going to move on because life is too short.”
A local of Guadalajara, Ochoa, 39, cultivated huge desires lengthy earlier than she turned one in all Mexico’s most celebrated athletes. She began enjoying golf when she was 5 and competed in her first match a 12 months later. When she was 11, Ochoa approached former PGA Tour participant Rafael Alarcón, whom she met on the Guadalajara Country Club, with a request:
“I want to be the best player in the world. Will you help me?”
Ochoa and Alarcón fashioned a long-lasting partnership, and when Ochoa punched her ticket to the LPGA Tour in 2003, the pair took off.
Ochoa notched her first victory in 2004, changing into the primary Mexican-born participant to win on the LPGA Tour. What adopted was a dominant stretch that included a historic four-stroke victory on the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews, a four-year run as LPGA Player of the Year and a spot on Time journal’s 100 most influential individuals checklist alongside Oprah Winfrey and Andre Agassi. Along the way, she supplanted her idol Annika Sorenstam because the world’s top-ranked participant, a place she refused to relinquish till she retired.
‘A greater particular person than a golfer’
Dubbed “La Reina” — the queen — by her hometown newspaper, Ochoa remained a humble champion who took monumental pleasure in her roots. Her visits with groundskeepers, lots of whom have been Latino, earlier than tournaments turned the stuff of legend. She’d thank them for his or her work, and on at the very least one event, made them breakfast.
“Ask anyone,” LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster advised ESPN in 2014, “she was most likely a greater particular person than a golfer, and he or she was a rattling good golfer.”
In a country where the masses had limited access to golf, Ochoa became an inspiration. She was an accessible presence to those aiming to leave their own marks on the game.
Take Guadalajara native Carlos Ortiz. In November, he became the first player from Mexico to win a PGA Tour event since Victor Regalado did so in 1978. Ortiz pointed directly to Ochoa as a source of influence and hope.
“She was on TV all the time, and in my case, she definitely inspired me and helped me believe that working hard and doing things the right way, we’re able to achieve our goals,” Ortiz told USA Today.
Ochoa’s legacy continues to stretch well beyond the ropes. She relishes the work she does for the Lorena Ochoa Foundation, a charitable organization she started in 2004 and still considers “the best thing that happened” in her career. The foundation helped establish La Barranca, an elementary school geared toward helping underprivileged students in Guadalajara. It has since added a high school, which Ochoa says has graduated more than 6,000 students.
“To be able to change their lives and their futures … it’s something very special. I’m very proud to say that,” Ochoa told “En Fuego.” “When I used to play, that was my motivation. Now that I’m here outside, that’s what I do. … For me, that’s my motivation. It’s something special.”