As LPGA Visits Mexico Ochoas Legend Grows

By Associated PressMarch 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
LPGA Tour _newMEXICO CITY, Mexico -- From a leafy golf course in Mexicos second-largest, sprawling city, Lorena Ochoa has willed her way to the top of the womens game, drawing millions of new fans to an increasingly international sport.
 
In Mexico, admirers point to the Lorena effect to explain how the worlds No. 1 female golfer is putting the sport on the map in a country where green fees are often five times the average daily wage and soccer rules hearts.
 
Shes an icon, said Hector Juarez, editor of the Mexico City-based magazine Caras Golf. Most people in Mexico dont know what golf really is, but they know Lorena Ochoa. Thats a huge gain. Shes giving golf massive exposure.
 
Ochoa, one of 120 active international players on the tour, tees off Friday at the MasterCard Classic in Huixquilucan, Mexico, the first of three LPGA events in the country. Without her, odds are Mexico would not have any LPGA events. One of them is the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. The only other living player whose name is the title of the tournament is Arnold Palmer.
 
The 26-year-old Ochoa is just establishing her dominance in her sixth LPGA season, replacing Annika Sorenstam as the worlds top player last April. Ochoa won her first major, the British Open, in August and set a record for season tournament earnings with nearly $4.4 million last year.
 
Two weeks ago at the HSBC Womens Champions tournament in Singapore, their only meeting this season so far, Ochoa buried Sorenstam by 11 strokes, shooting 20 under par. Sorenstam is not competing this weekend in Mexico.
 
Ochoa, who grew up with her brothers on a Guadalajara golf course, is known as much for her grace as her game.
 
Lorena sets a best-of-class example of not just how to be a great athlete, but how to be a great human being, LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens said. Lorena has given much more to the game than she has taken.
 
Ochoa is one of the youngest golfers to start her own philanthropic foundation, adopting an elementary school for 241 low-income children near her hometown. Foundation director Carmen Bolio credits Ochoa for increasing the number of donors through the Lorena effect.
 
Ochoa and her brother Alejandro, who is her manager, also have opened two golf academies and plan three more this year to train and certify instructors and help students access the countrys cloistered greens.
 
Were interested in growing golf in Mexico in every sense: in the number of players, the number of people who follow it on television, the number of golf courses, Alejandro Ochoa said.
 
Mexico counts 108 million people, but just 50,000 golfers and about 220 courses, according to the Mexican Golf Federation, compared to some 16,000 courses in the United States. About a quarter of the Mexican courses are at tourist resorts, and nearly all others are private, with membership often topping $10,000.
 
Still, more prospects are earning NCAA scholarships, and junior golf participation has swelled 25 percent since 2006 in central Mexico, according to the federation.
 
After all, Ochoa won five straight junior world championships and then had two NCAA player of the year seasons at the University of Arizona.
 
Lorena has opened doors and is blazing a trail for these young players, said Ian Gardner, director of the Mexican golf federation. Weve had more success in the past two or three years on an amateur level than almost ever before.
 
And the flood of media coverage devoted to Ochoa in Mexico is raising awareness of the sport.
 
I remember when they told me I had to cover golf, I practically cried, said Juarez, who has followed Ochoa since 2000.
 
About eight Mexican reporters covered the sport then, he said, while more than 100 do today.
 
But Ochoas reach extends beyond Mexico.
 
Every time I go back home, I see more and more young players with great potential, LPGA golfer Virada Nirapathpongporn, 25, from Thailand, said in an e-mail. Ochoas success goes to show that golf can be played and mastered by anyone, from any country as long as they have that tremendous desire.
 
Ruffin Beckwith, director of Golf 20/20 at the World Golf Foundation, likens Ochoa to Palmer, who got golf out of the country club in the 1950s, causing thousands of public courses to be built across the United States.
 
Forty years later, U.S. golf is stalling, as fewer rounds are played and more courses are closing than opening, Beckwith said.
 
Ochoa could unwittingly reverse that trend, Beckwith suggested, drawing millions of Mexican-American fans who were too young or far away to remember four-time LPGA player of the year Nancy Lopez.
 
On manicured greens from Las Vegas to Florida, Ochoa connects most visibly with countrymen who also earn a living off the game, greeting groundskeepers, restaurant and construction workers, signing flags and programs, and hosting breakfasts just hours before tee time to thank them for their work.
 
To many, she embodies their own dreams and struggles to get ahead, at home and in the world.
 
Mexicans are very proud of you, President Felipe Calderon told Ochoa at the 2007 LPGA Corona Championship in Morelia, Mexico. Lorena represents the Mexico we long to see, a Mexico that refuses to be defeated, a Mexico that fights, a Mexico that opens ways in the world, a Mexico that wins.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - MasterCard Classic
  • Getty Images

    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

    Getty Images

    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

    Getty Images

    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

    Getty Images

    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.