Lorena Ochoa announced Tuesday that she will retire from golf. How will she be remembered? Editorial director Jay Coffin and senior writer Randall Mell offer their takes.
By JAY COFFIN
Lorena Ochoa will be remembered for many things, but the word that sticks out most in my mind is genuine.
She has the innate gift to invite you into her life and make you feel comfortable and happy to be around her. Case in point, she began every interview with a warm, sweet “hello” that gave the impression that she was truly pleased that you were there to speak with her, a refreshing trait in an era where many professional athletes couldn’t care less if you were there.
I first met Ochoa at the 1999 U.S. Girls’ Junior in Maryland when she was 17-years-old, shy and barely spoke a word of English. A year later I covered her as a freshman at the University of Arizona, where she dominated for two years before turning professional in 2002. Her LPGA career speaks for itself with 27 victories, two major championships and four consecutive Player of the Year honors.
But it speaks volumes about Ochoa’s character that she was such a fierce competitor on the golf course and accomplished so much in such a short time, yet will be remembered more for being a true, genuine, caring person off the golf course.
It almost sounds like gushing, but Ochoa really is one of the special people in sports. Because she cares, because she’s so genuine and because she sweetly says “hello” is precisely why it’ll be so difficult to see her say goodbye.
By RANDALL MELL
Years from now, Lorena Ochoa won’t be remembered most for the glorious victories in her reign atop women’s golf.
Unless something unexpected unfolds Friday when she tells us why she’s retiring from golf – and her management company is specifically using the word retire – she’ll be remembered for her glorious triumph of choice.
“She may be seeing that her most important life’s work is no longer winning golf tournaments,” Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said.
Rankin poignantly summed up the suspicions of tour pros.
If Ochoa’s OK, if there’s nothing wrong in her life forcing a choice, then it’s the remarkably inspiring choice she appears to be making that will forever define her.
Ochoa has won 27 LPGA events, reigning over a torrid run of 21 titles over three seasons (2006-08), but now it feels as if her playing career was just the foundation for launching more meaningful triumphs of spirit. Her commitment to her faith and her country, to her new life as a wife and mother, to her foundations and other civic causes, appear to be more important to her than athletic glory.
Ochoa will be remembered most for that choice, and that makes her more than an extraordinary player. It makes her an extraordinary human being.