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Ochoa will be greatly missed

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Iain Carter | 10:24 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

In an age when so many highly paid golf stars are happy to hide behind their sponsored sunshades and under logo-covered caps, golf needs its personalities like never before.

That is especially the case in the women's game which has struggled to replace Annika Sorenstam as its iconic figurehead, so the news that Lorena Ochoa is to retire delivers a big blow to the sport.

The popular Mexican's reasons for walking away are thought to be a desire to spend more time on her family and charity work which she has always said are big priorities in her life.

But to her decision to retire from a game she has dominated at the tender age of 28 still comes as a major shock; never mind Ochoa's undoubted talent, she is also one of golf's most engaging characters.

Ochoa has a ready smile and an abundance of charm to complement her beautifully rhythmic swing and outstandingly imaginitive golfing mind.

When she won the Women's British Open at St Andrews in 2007 it was a hugely popular victory. She played that week under intense pressure, having risen to the top of the world rankings without having a major title to her name.

Ochoa was at the height of her powers and knew she had the chance to correct this anomaly on an historic occasion at the home of golf.

There was widespread belief that she would do it, but as so many players can ruefully recall, living up to such grand expectations is rarely straightforward.

However, the diminutive Ochoa did it in style, with an ever present smile and plenty of humility too. She led from start to finish after opening with the lowest round of the week, a 67, en route to a four-shot victory.

Lorena OchoaOchoa receives the trophy after winning the 2007 Women's British Open at St Andrews

Interviewing her that week was a delight as she showed herself to be a true ambassador for the game. Reporters nodded in approval, one recalled playing a pro-am with Ochoa and finding her utterly engaging throughout.

With 27 wins in an eight-year career, including a second major at the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship, she was one of the LPGA Tour's top calling cards and a prime reason for expanding the schedule into her native Mexico.

Her Central American roots allowed the Tour to broaden its international appeal and offered a key counterbalance to the inevitable pull of the Far East generated by a host of top Asian players.

Sorenstam has offered her support for the decision saying that she understands the thought processes the Mexican must have been going through, but there has to be an inevitable feeling of unfinished business about the early end to Ochoa's career -at the same age, the Swede had won 11 fewer tournaments and had the same number of majors to her name.

Having said that, there are no guarantees that Ochoa would have gone on to dominate the game in the way that Sorenstam did.

There was evidence that her career may have already peaked because last year she managed only three wins compared with eight in 2008 and this season she has yet to win and her demeanour on course has been noticeably more tetchy.

Having married AeroMexico Executive Andres Conesa last December, Ochoa has taken an active role in the lives of his three children. She is also already heavily involved in education projects at home in Guadalajara.

Clearly she sees and covets a life outside sport. Tennis players often go through the same process at a similar age and the phrase "you're a long time retired" echoes around the locker room, but it's not often that way in Ochoa's game.

She seems ready to leave behind competitive golf - but the game will be the poorer for her exit.


  • Comment number 1.

    It has been quite obvious that there has been something missing from this young ladies game of late and yet when interviewed she was always her charming self, no excuses and always a big smile, she certainly is an exception to the rule. Certainly is a tender age to quit the game but family appears to be foremost in her future which must be admired, I for one will certainly miss her and can only wish her every happiness.

  • Comment number 2.

    Living in Mexico, I can see that Lorena has single-handedly raised the profile of golf in the country - which by the way is in NORTH America - although, given the demographics of the country, that interest will quickly disappear on her retirement, and sadly she will be largely forgotten, as Ana Guevara has been in athletics.

  • Comment number 3.

    Perhaps she'll come back after five or ten years. Since golf is a silly sport with little depth, particularly in the women's game, it shouldn't be that hard for her to still be competitive then.

    But seriously, golf is just a game. She's got other priorities in life. Good for her! I've never heard of her before (I can barely name ten current male golfers), but I wish her all the best.

    I hardly need add that if she was a tennis player, this would be about the time she'd retire anyway. Of course, tennis has far more depth and physical stress than golf.

    PS: She looks vaguely like Cote de Pablo.

  • Comment number 4.

    I bet she will be back. Like the the Belgium tennis players she will miss the competitive juices.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Ian, I'm not always the biggest fan of your blogs but this time you have hit the nail on the head. A very worthy subject. I live in Guadalajara, Mexico, I know Lorena personally and have played golf with her, she is all that she appears on the television. A genuine, warm, fun-loving person with a great talent for golf.

    She will be a very sad loss to ladies golf and golf in general, but I believe that she honestly believes that she is moving on to a better phase of her life and who can argue. Lorena has always had time to help people in need even with a busy schedule, now she can concentrate on that and starting her own family.

    Lorena is an athlete and she can always come back, age really isn't such a big obstacle in golf as in other sports.

    I applaud Lorena, she is a great human being. I wish her good luck.

  • Comment number 6.

    holy rarely happens batman! i am in almost full agreement w/ carter column. only rarely b/c i detected a slight feel that perhaps her first major justified her #1 ranking at the time. for me if a player achieves the kind of consistency it takes to reach #1 w/out a major it's not such an anomaly, just math. of course it's easier to get there from the points collected from majors but no less an achievement...:)

  • Comment number 7.

    poetic_pundit Thanks for the geography lesson, poor error - apologies.
    sportmadgav and used2beprofi no doubt normal service will be resumed soon, but thanks for comments. Only point re a major missing is that it will always be a talking point and source of additional pressure for a player at the top of the rankings without one to her or his name. It was for Lorena - I was there - and she responded brilliantly.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am shocked and mortified. I have followed Ochoa since she was a rookie, and I can tell you one thing for sure it has not been easy to follow LPGA events in the UK, certainly not since the Golf channel stopped broadcasting them.
    There was always something so engaging about Lorena, the grace was not just in her play but in her very demeanor.
    I remember following her and Julietta Granada at Lytham St Annes and she was guiding Julietta around more like mentor than a competitor it was very strange. I suppose that is what we call sporting isnt it?
    But this is just a reflection of her life more generally. She dedicates a large amount of her time and efforts into her charitable foundations and has always said that was a lot more important to her that her competative golf.
    I fear for the LPGA's future a little bit to be honest because Lorena was such a draw, it would seem logical that it would head towards being more asia based I suppose.
    Anyhoo, thats my grief couseling session nearly done. It has seemed this year that she has not been 100% focused on her game and with all else that has been going on in her life who can blame her. She has clearly got her priorities right in life and God bless her big heart for that.
    We will miss you Lorena.

  • Comment number 9.

    Lorena is one of the very few truly genuine sports personalities out there. Her fame has not spoiled her only made her more lovable and entertaining. Starting with her accent which is very endearing through to her tremendous talents. People may not be aware but whenever she would to to a golf tournament she would go early and treat the grounds crew to breakfast or lunch and always had time for sponsors and the little people. Obviously her priorities have changed with an instant family but my guess is she will miss golf and return in the future. The game of golf and especially the PGA will miss her tremendously.

  • Comment number 10.

    "normal service resumed soon" was that humor from you? i think so...nice one, iain,..

  • Comment number 11.

    Lorena is a lovely girl but a Cote de Pablo - I assume you do have mirrors in your house!?


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