Lorena Ochoa still relishes time on the practice range, but it’s so different now.
The joy today is watching her son, Pedro, hit balls on the golf course where her family makes its home in Mexico City. He will turn 3 next month, and Ochoa knows half the fun for her son is hopping into their golf cart, beside her, to make the drive to the range from their house.
Pedro likes to stop and feed the ducks on a pond there after hitting balls.
“We have our routines,” Ochoa told GolfChannel.com in a telephone interview. “We go to the playground after school and to the range. He likes to hit golf balls. He only hits about 10 balls and then he’ll say, 'OK, I’m done, let’s go.'”
Then it’s off to the feed the ducks with his baby sister, Julia.
Pedro may like hitting balls more than his mother does these days.
“I don’t like to practice that much anymore,” Ochoa says. “I don’t play very much.”
With the Lorena Ochoa Invitational set for its seventh annual staging this week, questions arise anew over whether old competitive fires are beginning to burn within Ochoa again. She will tell you that they don’t. She relishes her life as a mother too much. She retired four years ago at 28 as the world No. 1 to start a family with her husband, Andres Conesa Labastida, president of Aeromexico. She doesn’t regret leaving the game for a moment.
While Ochoa could have a spot in her own tournament this week, she’s only teeing it up in the pro-am.
“I’ll play the pro-am to be with the sponsors and friends,” Ochoa said.
But what about the future? Can she begin to see the day she’ll want to compete for championships again?
“No, I don’t see myself competing again,” Ochoa said. “I’m finished. I may go to play one tournament at some point, to have fun and to see some friends, but I don’t see myself competing again. I’m enjoying this part of my life.”
Last Wednesday, Ochoa’s youngest, Julia, celebrated her first birthday. Pedro helped wake her up with a birthday song.
“Julia’s a happy girl,” Ochoa said. “She laughs a lot, and she’s starting to walk. Pedro’s talking now, and he’s a really good brother. It’s amazing, and I feel blessed.”
Ochoa can’t envision taking time away from them to re-commit to competition at the highest level.
“Everyone asks if I miss playing,” Ochoa said. “I don’t really miss it. If I’m not able to practice and do it the right way, I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Ochoa won the last of her 27 LPGA titles five years ago at the Navistar Classic, but her name still resonates on tour.
“She’s one of the names you still hear players on tour talking about,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. “I don’t know how much communication players still have with her, but she’s in our fabric. The respect for Lorena is through the roof. I don’t know a player who wasn’t a little wowed playing with her.”
Ochoa’s passion for the game continues to be sharing its benefits with countrymen, families and juniors. That’s why she’s so excited about all the changes to her tournament this year.
While staging the first six tournaments on the golf course where she grew up in Guadalajara was special, she sees the event’s move to Mexico City this year as an important step for the tournament and her country. It is being played at the Club de Golf Mexico in the heart of Mexico City, where Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer teamed together to win the World Cup of Golf in 1967.
“I couldn’t ask for a better place to play the tournament,” Ochoa said. “The course has held big events before, and the members are excited for us to be there. It’s in beautiful shape, and I think the players are going to like it.”
Ochoa’s event faced some challenges last year at Guadalajara Country Club, when the local government pulled funding, causing the event to lose its television deal. With the move to Mexico City, Ochoa believes her tournament has secured a strong future.
“Playing in Guadalajara was a dream come true for me,” Ochoa said. “I wanted to share my experiences with my community and all the club members there, but it seems right to move to Mexico City now, to make the tournament even better and more important. There are so many clients and businesses and golf courses here. With the tournament televised around the world, we’ll be showing Mexico to the world. It’s good for Mexico City and the country.”
Ochoa’s event has a contract to play in Mexico City through 2016. Ochoa Sports Management, headed by Lorena’s brother, Alejandro, operates the tournament.
“Everyone’s on board, sponsors, the government,” Ochoa said. “Everything’s going smoothly. We aren’t worried about the future of the tournament. We have a three-year deal and hopefully we’ll be here a lot longer.”
Whan said the tournament’s ability to secure television coverage was key.
“For a long time, they’ve had four big sponsors and each of them has wanted the event in Mexico City, because that’s where they’re based and where all their customers are, where the hub is,” Whan said. “Alejandro told me a long time ago, if I ever tell you I need to go to Mexico City, it means I’m finally doing what my sponsors asked.”
Lorena remains intricately involved in her charities, including the school her foundation built in Guadalajara. The Lorena Ochoa Foundation is the primary beneficiary of her tournament. The foundation’s mission is to provide opportunities for children and adults in family-based health, fitness and educational programs in Mexico and the United States. She built the Lorena Ochoa Golf Academy in Jurupa Valley, Calif., and has established Lorena’s Links golf programs at six sites in Southern California.