Ochoa saying goodbye this week in Mexico

By Associated PressApril 29, 2010, 3:01 am

LPGA Tour _newMORELIA, Mexico – Michael Whan had several weeks to come up with a plan to talk Lorena Ochoa out of retiring after this week’s Tres Marias Championship.

The LPGA commissioner offered one last pitch on Wednesday to the 28-year-old Mexican, who has been ranked No. 1 for three years but is leaving to raise a family and elevate the profile of her charity foundation.

“I told her I’m going to send her some Brett Favre videos,” said Whan, sitting next to Ochoa. “It’s never too late to come back.”

Ochoa laughed, patted Whan on the shoulders and continued saying goodbye.

Ochoa announced last week she was retiring as an active player, which many expected – just not this soon – after her marriage in December to Aeromexico chief executive Andres Conesa.

She’ll play a few selected tournaments, but a full-blown return seems unlikely.

Despite golf’s low profile in Mexico, she is ranked among the country’s five most successful athletes joining baseball pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, 400-meter runner Ana Guevara and soccer player Hugo Sanchez.

“I’m not going away because I am not playing good golf,” Ochoa said, “I’m going away because this is the right time for me. I’ve achieved my goals, I’m happy and I want to leave as No. 1.”

Ochoa said she intended play this season, but in Asia early in the season she found herself unmotivated in two tournaments. Her decision came quickly after that.

“I feel light. I feel happier,” she said. “It’s been easier the last couple of weeks.”

Ochoa has won 27 LPGA events, including two majors, has been No. 1 for three years and has been honored four straight years as the LPGA’s Player of the Year. The has also won this event three times, including last season.

She leaves a reputation for kindness and humility in her wake and steps away as the one of the most popular players on tour.

“Lorena is a better person than a golfer,” said tour player Reilley Rankin, who described Ochoa as her “best friend out here.”

“I think we all knew it was coming within a couple of years, but to be honest with you I don’t think Lorena knew it was coming this soon,” Rankin said. “She has just always been so real and very well-balanced, and as soon as that balance in her life was a little off she was aware of it.”

Player after player offered stories about Ochoa being down to earth.

Rankin described traveling with Ochoa on the Future’s development tour and buying fishing poles to kill time as they racked up thousands of highway miles.

“We went and bought poles one week and we just found a place to fish every week – me and my dad against Lorena and her brother. “We had an on-going contest who caught the most fish.”

Christina Kim recalled being paired with her a few years ago in the tournament Ochoa’s hosts annually in her hometown of Guadalajara.

“They were holding up babies at the edge of the ropes, just like the Pope,” Kim said. “I’ve been saying for years she going to be canonized one of these days.”

Hawaii-born Michelle Wie, part of a long list of players who could eventually take over the No. 1 ranking, said she respected Ochoa for being true to herself.

“It’s fast,” Wie said of the retirement. “I kind of respect her for that, though. It was a good move. She has to do whatever makes her happy. And she left on top and that I respect too.”

Ochoa will tee off on Thursday and Friday with American Natalie Gulbis and Japanese Ai Miyazato. Ochoa asked specifically to play with both of them.

Gulbis and Ochoa grew up in junior golf together, and Miyazato has won two of the first four LPGA events this season and is also in that group that could eventually claim No. 1.

“I think she’s the nicest girl on tour,” Ochoa said of Miyazato. “She’s my favorite. I admire her, how she handles her career with all the pressure from Asia, from Japan. It’s going to be a couple rounds that I’m going to remember forever, so it’s nice to be with them.”

Miyazato knew nothing of Ochoa’s choice until she was told Wednesday on the practice range.

“I feel really happy about that. It is an honor to be able to play with her in her last tournament,” Miyazato said. “She is always the same, on the same wavelength if she is playing good or not so good. It is tough to be like that.”

Just behind Ochoa in the rankings are: No. 2 Jiyai Shin of South Korea, Yani Tseng of Taiwan, Suzanne Pettersen of Norway, Miyazato and American Cristie Kerr at No. 6. Wie is No. 9.

Despite Ochoa’s dominance, no Mexican player is anywhere close to the top tier. Behind Ochoa is Sophia Sheridan ranked No. 344 and Tanya Dergal at 737. Many eyes will be on two Mexican 13-year-olds playing the tournament – Ana Paula Valdes and Marijosse Navarro.

Ochoa is sure to get a giant reception. A 15-foot-by-15-foot canvas sign hanging in front of the massive flagstone club house reads: “Welcome to your home Lore. Thanks for all you have given us.”

Tournament officials said they expected attendance of 40,000, almost double the 25,000 of last season at the Tres Marias Golf Club, a mountainside course cut by deep valleys and spectacular scenery.

Ochoa said she had given away about 200 tickets to friends and family.

“I can tell you right away it is going to be tough dealing with all the emotions. For sure there are going to be a lot of tears – joy tears,” Ochoa said. “For me, this is the best moment in my career.”

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.