Juli Inkster didn’t try to talk Lorena Ochoa out of retirement when Ochoa confided in her a month ago.
“When Lorena makes up her mind, it’s done,” Inkster said. “Lorena goes with what’s in her heart. She’s always been that way.”
Inkster and Ochoa were paired together in the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship at the beginning of April. After the round, with Inkster signing autographs, an LPGA official told her that Ochoa wanted to speak privately with her.
They marched away from the crush of fans at the scoring area and huddled in the middle of the practice putting green.
That’s where Ochoa told Inkster that she was going to retire.
“I wasn’t prepared,” Inkster said. “She started telling me, and I was kind of in shock.”
Ochoa remembers the emotions of the conversation.
“Juli said, `I want to cry,’ and I said, `Me too, let's cry for happiness because this is something that I'm super happy about,'' Ochoa said. 'Juli gave me a big hug, and said, `Thank you for everything.’”
There have been lots of hugs and thank you’s at the Tres Marias Championship in Ochoa's Mexican homeland this week from LPGA pros who haven’t seen Ochoa since the news broke. Inkster is among the 132 players in the field. The emotion from fans who grabbed up all 40,000 of the daily tickets that were printed promises to make this a memorable but tough week for Ochoa. She is the defending champion and would relish winning her farewell appearance a full-time player.
“I’m going to miss her,” said Inkster, 49, a mother of two daughters and one of the most successful jugglers of career and family in tour history.
Inkster knew there was no reason to press Ochoa on whether she was making the right choice when they spoke at the Kraft Nabisco. She knows how important family and Ochoa’s two foundations are to the world’s No. 1 female player.
“I have never seen anyone as spiritually sound as Lorena is or as comfortable in their skin as she is,” Inkster said. “She isn’t like other players. Golf is what she does, not who she is. I’ve always thought Lorena has had a higher calling than golf. She’s going to do something special in Mexico.”