Ochoa Delivers Third Title


Futures TourMORGANTOWN, W. Va., ' Rookie Lorena Ochoa of Guadalajara, Mexico, captured her third tournament in nine starts at the $70,000 Betty Puskar Futures Golf Classic held at The Pines Country Club in Morgantown, W. Va. Ochoa fired a 69 (-3) for a 207 (-9), defeating non-exempt LPGA Tour member Erika Wicoff of New Albany, Ind., and Teresa Ishiguro of Sutter Creek, Calif., by two shots. Wicoff and Ishiguro shot rounds of 66 (-6) and 70 (-2).
Ochoa, who came into the final round with a one-stroke deficit to Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea, at 138 (-6), caught up early on in the match with a birdie on two. A bogey on eight was wiped out with a birdie on nine. Through nine holes, Ochoa was tied with Kang, her playing partner, and Ishiguro at 7-under-par for the tournament.
As Ochoa made the turn, she recorded her second bogey in three holes on the par-4 394-yard 10th hole. The 20-year-old came back with another birdie, her third of the day, on 12, to go to 7-under-par again. An additional birdie on 14 gave her the outright lead and in true Ochoa fashion, she finished strong by capping off her round with a 10-foot birdie putt on 18. She ended with a 69 (-3) for a 207 (-9) total.
'The round seemed very long today,' commented Ochoa, who picked up the $9,800 first-place check and moved to top spot on the Futures Tour Money List. 'I was a little frustrated with my play on the front nine. Once I made the turn, I started from zero. I stayed patient, played consistent, and my goal was to finish strong. Im very pleased.'
Wicoff made an impressive run for her second Futures Tour career victory. She started the day tied for 16th at 143 (-1) and recorded only one birdie through the first nine holes. Wicoff turned in a scorching back nine, picking up birdies on 10, 12, 16, and she chipped in from 30 feet for eagle on the final hole, the par-5 446-yard No. 18. Wicoff finished with a 6-under-par 66. Oddly enough, she was victorious at the 1996 Betty Puskar Futures Golf Classic, where she also shot a final-round 66 (-6) for a 212 (-4).
'Regardless of the outcome, my goal was to play well,' said Wicoff. 'Things were pretty slow on the front nine. I just kept telling myself that I needed to make birdies if I wanted something to happen. When I saw the leaderboard on 16, I knew I was only a couple shots away from Lorena. I was determined to finish strong with at least a birdie, and it turned out to be a lot better.'
Ishiguro, who started at 5-under-par 139, carded three birdies and one bogey to match Ochoa and Kang, who were playing one group behind. Like Ochoa, Ishiguro bogeyed 10 and birdied 12 to remain tied with her competitor. She parred her remaining holes and finished one shot back of Ochoa at 7-under-par 209, her career-best finish on the Futures Golf Tour.
Second-round leader Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea, recorded one birdie and one bogey on the front side, but collapsed with two straight bogeys on 10 and 11. Kang was unable to recover and ended the round at 1-over-par 73. Kang finished in fourth with a 54-hole total of 210 (-6).
It felt like dj vu for Ochoa, who was paired with Kang three tournaments ago in the final round of the M&T Bank Loretto Futures Golf Classic in Syracuse, N.Y. Kang beat Ochoa by one shot. Rather than suffer the agony of defeat, Ochoa promised herself that things would be different this time around.
This is Ochoas third victory of the season, becoming the first player to do so this year. The rookie turned professional and joined the Tour in mid-May. In only nine tournaments, she has posted three wins, and four runner-up finishes, placing out of the top five only once. By reviewing her performance, it is clear that Ochoa has made a smooth transition from the amateur to professional ranks.
She credits LPGA superstar Annika Sorenstam of Stockholm, Sweden, another product of the University of Arizona, for helping Ochoa make the grueling decision of leaving school to turn professional. The two have become good friends and even had the opportunity to play in the third round of the Nabisco Kraft Championship, an LPGA major, in late March. Sorenstam was the eventual winner, while Ochoa, who was still an amateur, placed eighth with a 285 (-3), only five shots short of Sorenstam.
'Annika gave me some great advice before I decided to turn professional,' Ochoa commented. 'We have become good friends and I really admire all of her accomplishments. I also had the chance to play a play a practice round with her during the U.S. Open and I am looking forward to playing again with her soon.'
Ochoas goals are to not only make it onto the LPGA Tour, but she is determined to follow in the footsteps of her friend. She has made a remarkable start.