KirkwoodGolf: Mexican star ending her career at the age of 28

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mexican star ending her career at the age of 28

Lorena Ochoa, World No 1 female
golfer, announces her retirement

Lorena Ochoa, the world's No 1 lady professional golfer, has stunned the golfing world by announcing her retirement today at the age of 28.
She had been three years as the world's top ranked female golfer, taking over the mantle from Sweden's Annika Sorenstam.
Mexican-born Ochoa confirmed her decision in a short statement, saying she will hold a Press conference on Friday to explain her decision.
"Lorena Ochoa confirms her retirement from the LPGA, as news reports in some media have said today," her statement said.
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"The reasons and more details on the matter will be given by Lorena personally in a press conference on Friday in Mexico City. Lorena will share this news of a new stage in her life with her sponsors, family members and friends."
The newspaper Reforma said on Tuesday that Ochoa was retiring to concentrate on her family and charities.
Ochoa was married in December to Andres Conesa, the CEO of Aeromexico airline. He has three children from a previous marriage.
She was set to play next week in the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, west of Mexico City. It was not clear if she will play there or if this month's Kraft Nabisco Championship in California, where she finished fourth in the year's first major, was her finale.
Ochoa was following the path of former No 1, Annika Sorenstam, who was married last year just weeks after ending her career. Annika gave birth to a baby girl in September. Ochoa has also talked openly about wanting to have children of her own.
Last year she began travelling more on charity work within Mexico, playing less, and had more off-course obligations, which include her charity foundation.
"Personally, it's more important the things that I do outside the golf course," Ochoa said last year before a tournament she hosts in her hometown of Guadalajara. "And that's been my main focus right now."
Sorenstam was a commanding player, and Ochoa was expected to take over the mantle. Sorenstam's departure probably increased the pressure on Ochoa, who won two majors among her 27 victories on the US LPGA Tour - including the 2007 Ricoh Women's British Open by four strokes over the Old Course, St Andrews - but didn't quite pull the crowds the way Sorenstam did.
The retirement of its No 1 player will be a major blow to the US LPGA, which is struggling in a tough economy and has seen its number of tournaments decline in recent years.
'I want to be home, with my husband, not living out of a suitcase,"
said Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa began every news conference with the sweetest “Hello” in golf. Now, at a mere 28 years old, she’ll say goodbye to a tour that she dominated for several years. While the timing of Ochoa’s impending retirement came as a shock, the fact that she’s walking away so early in her career was expected.
Ochoa long has made it clear that she would not mix family and golf. She married AeroMexico CEO Andres Conesa in December and began a new chapter in life. Most assumed Ochoa would play until 2012, when she’d qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame after 10 seasons, but accolades have never meant more to Ochoa than family.
“Well, I think life is too short, and I always say that I want to play golf and be there 100 percent and be very competitive, and my goal is to stay in that No. 1 position as long as I play,” Ochoa said at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
And then will come a different stage for my life (when starting a family) when I want to be home. I want to be with my husband. I want to every day do things and be at one place, not traveling with a suitcase. I have that very clear.”
Ochoa’s thoughts won’t be known until her Friday news conference in Mexico City, but good friend Sophia Sheridan said the word in Ochoa’s camp is that she simply wasn’t enjoying the game anymore. That was obvious in Ochoa’s actions. The World No. 1’s on-course tantrums were becoming routine.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about legacy. My church pastor (First Baptist of Orlando, where the late Payne Stewart attended) has spent the past several weeks on legacy, even quoting part of Billy Payne’s speech on Masters Sunday. While the men’s World No. 1 tries to find ways to connect with fans beyond his mind-blowing stats and swing, Ochoa never needed that lesson.
“I hope (Tiger) can come to understand that life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who bring joy to the lives of other people,” Payne said.
Consider Ochoa highly rewarded.
But while no one will ever question the joy Ochoa brought to others in and around the game, the happiness she received in return seemed to have taken a turn in the past year.
People have been asking “What’s wrong with Lorena?” for quite some time. At last year’s event in Phoenix, an Ochoa tantrum was caught on TV. The next week in Rancho Mirage, a volunteer who had watched Ochoa for years, walked up in shock after seeing Ochoa throw her ball down several times in disgust on her way to the tee. This year at the Kraft, she spiked her ball so hard on a green that she had to repair her own divot.
Ochoa’s frustrations were mounting, and one got the feeling her heart was somewhere else. Perhaps there wasn’t enough heart to go around.
At the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open, Ochoa broke down in tears after hitting an awful 3-wood off the tee on the 72nd hole. “I just gave it away,” she said.
That kind of competitive fire blazed within Ochoa for so many years, many will wonder how someone so competitive can just walk away, especially having won only two majors among her 27 career victories.
Well, Annika Sorenstam walked away at the end of 2008 and hasn’t thought twice about her decision. She’s as consumed by her family and business ventures as she used to be with collecting trophies. Ochoa, though 11 years younger, will be the same.
After all, golf never was the center of Ochoa’s life. God and family always have been her core. She’ll pour herself into the lives of Conesa’s three children and start planning for more. She’ll keep bringing the game to the masses in Mexico and expand her academies around the world. She’ll continue to educate the poor.
In Conesa, Ochoa has a well-respected businessman and provider who carries a lot of clout in Mexico. They maintain a Hollywood power-couple status in Mexico City, where security always is tight. That kind of fish-bowl existence can be exhausting.
Ochoa’s entire golf career was centeed on becoming World No. 1. The rate she was going lately, however, it was only a matter of time (maybe weeks) before that position was taken away. If Ochoa can’t find the drive to stay at No. 1, she’s not the type to stick around.
There’s too much pressure back home in Mexico. Too many questions, too many expectations. A club-throwing, ball-spiking, thigh-slapping flurry of agitation is not the legacy Ochoa aimed to leave. Like many women, she decided she couldn’t do it all. No shame in that.
Beyond Ochoa’s millions of fans, plenty of whom should be in attendance when she tees it up next week in Morelia, Ochoa’s benevolence toward her peers, family and country will define her legacy. Ochoa’s eight years on the LPGA provided a platform she undoubtedly will use for good as long as she lives.
Where Ochoa goes, joy will follow.