25 April 2010

Lorena Ochoa calls it quits

Guadalajara golf star Lorena Ochoa officially announced her retirement on Friday, saying she wanted to focus on other priorities such as family and her charitable work in Mexico.

She plans to play her final competitive tournament early next month at an LPGA tour stop in Morelia.

Ochoa departs as the No. 1 player in the world and perhaps the most dominant female gofer of the past decade – at least the latter half of it. She won 27 times and claimed two majors, although her early career was marked by near misses and a sense of being snake bitten in the big events

But she accomplished the rare feat of becoming one of the country’s best-known athletes even though she competed in a sport with a limited profile and one that offered few opportunities for the masses to easily discover – Mexico has no public golf courses, something Ochoa and her foundation have long wanted to change.

Ochoa was perhaps Mexico’s top female athlete over the past decade, along with former world champion sprinter and 2004 silver medal winner Ana Guevara. She might have been Mexico’s top overall athlete. (Who else? Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez?)

In Guadalajara, where sports coverage begins and ends with the soccer club, Chivas, Ochoa is a living legend. My former editor at the Guadalajara Colony Reporter often recalled covering Ochoa and a young Tiger Woods winning world junior golf championships in the early 1990s.

How much golf has grown in Mexico because of Ochoa’s exploits is uncertain – she was certainly no rags-to-riches story, having learned to play at the pricey Guadalajara Golf and Country Club. But she became an icon and true sporting heroine in a country that often lacks much in the way championships or international exploits.

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