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Ochoa Sets 10-Year Limit on Career

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Lorena Ochoa reached the pinnacle of women's golf and plans to leave on her own terms.

'There are things that make me a little sad, but I accept them because I have to make a sacrifice to go far,' Ochoa said in an interview with The Associated Press. 'For that reason, I don't want to play for more than 10 years in the LPGA, I would like to be a more normal person, to have a family, that God gives me the opportunity to have kids.'

Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa won six times to win Player of the Year in 2006.
Ochoa, 25, won six times last year to capture the money title, the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average and LPGA player of the year, ending Annika Sorenstam's five-year reign. She also was voted AP female athlete of the year, an unprecedented distinction for a Mexican athlete.

'Just to finish in that top position was a dream come true, and at the same time to have the recognition of the best athlete, I have no words to describe it,' Ochoa said.

The Mexican government awarded her the National Sports Prize, its highest honor for an athlete.

'I was surprised, but at the same time happy, because I worked hard for many years and now to get the award is very nice,' Ochoa said.

Ochoa won three straight times toward the end of the season that allowed her to take the money title with nearly $2.6 million. The only thing missing was a major. Her best chance came at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She hit a 5-wood to 6 feet for an eagle on the last hole to get into a playoff, but lost to Karrie Webb.

'The majors are so important for professionals, but at the same time I don't want to put any extra pressure on myself,' Ochoa said. 'I just want to play them as any tournament. If I say, 'Oh my God, it's a major,' it's never going to happen. I can only tell you that I'm ready to win a major, I think the experience that I have had for three, four seasons, really helped me, and hopefully this is the year for me.'

Ochoa wants to use part of her earnings to help needy children attend school. She created a foundation that already has built a school for over 300 students.

'Since I became a professional I have wanted to help others, if God has helped me get to where I am, allowing me so many beautiful things, the ability to share with the most needy is something that for me is very important,' she said. 'The ability to share with others is more beautiful than winning any tournament.'

The success of the golfer has made the sport more popular in Mexico. It's not unusual for major newspapers and TV stations to cover each of Ochoa's tournaments, and to sometimes give them priority over coverage of soccer, the national sport.

And although Ochoa enjoys the media attention and her fans, she also misses the ability to go to the movies without being recognized.

'I miss my family, friends, it has caused me to lose important things to me, a baptism, a cousin's wedding,' she said. 'I missed my own graduation.'

Ochoa was 12 when she trained for six months to climb Pico de Orizaba, Mexico's highest volcano at 18,855 feet. She tries to stay away from the golf course when the tour ends. She likes the beach and the mountains and her native state of Jalisco, where she spends time reading and listening to music.

'It gives me energy, so that I don't get fed up with golf,' she said.

And just like the end of 2005, Ochoa has set high goals for the coming year. Her next stop is No. 1 in the world ranking, ahead of Sorenstam.

'I think we always have room to improve,' she said. 'I know I made some mistakes last year that I don't want to do this year. I'm going to set some high goals. I know I can do it, I know I can win tournaments, I know I can beat Annika. I know I can do it, that's my dream, that's my goal, to be in the No. 1 position.'

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