Lorena Ochoa won’t be teeing it up in her LPGA event in Mexico City this week, and she won’t be playing the pro-am, either.
Ochoa happily reports there is a very good reason for that: She’s seven months pregnant, due in January with her third child, a boy.
“Every other year the players come here, I have a big belly,” Ochoa told GolfChannel.com with a laugh. “I haven’t practiced or played that much.”
Ochoa’s youngest child, Julia, turned 2 years old last week. Her oldest, Pedro, will turn 4 in December. She and her husband, Andres Conesa Labastida, plan to name their newest child Diego.
While Ochoa won’t be playing this week, her presence will be strong throughout the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. From the clinics to the pro-am to the trophy presentation, Ochoa, who turns 34 on Sunday, will be there relishing all that the tournament means to her and to growing golf in her homeland.
It seems Ochoa’s life is all about nurturing these days, nurturing family, her foundation’s charities and her golf tournament, which turns 8 years old this week. Ochoa continues to pour herself into her causes.
“It’s a very special week,” said Ochoa, a 27-time LPGA winner who retired five seasons ago. “In a way, it makes me feel like I’m back on tour.
“I keep telling Julia and Pedro that my tournament is coming, and my friends are coming. They are getting older and more aware of golf and what I used to do. It’s an exciting week.”
While the Lorena Ochoa Invitational has faced some sponsorship challenges, Ochoa happily reports obstacles are being overcome to keep the event going. Golf isn’t a national sports priority in Mexico, but she has been working hard to secure its future. The event’s contract runs through next year.
“We have a lot of challenges every year, especially this year, with the Formula One race here last week,” Ochoa said. “It was difficult because all the attention went to that. At the same time, we are solid. We struggled a little bit with sponsors, but we were able to make it, and we already have sponsors committed to next year. So, we’ve decided to continue on with the LPGA. We’re in good shape.”
Ochoa was the Rolex world No. 1 when she announced her retirement in the spring of 2010. Today, Alejandra Llaneza is the highest ranked Mexican woman in the world rankings at No. 327. Ochoa is hopeful her event and golf’s return to the Olympics next year will fuel the game’s growth in Mexico.
“We don’t get the attention we would like,” Ochoa said of golf.
Ochoa says having Carlos Ortiz playing on the PGA Tour is a big deal now.
“The girls are getting there,” Ochoa said. “Little by little, they’re getting in position. We have a few on the Symetra Tour and a few in Q-School in December.”
Llaneza is one of three players from Mexico who will be competing in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on sponsor exemptions. Llaneza won on the Symetra Tour this year and finished sixth on that tour’s money list, earning a return to the LPGA. She was an LPGA rookie in 2014. Also playing on sponsor invites are Margarita Ramos, a second-year Symetra Tour player, and amateur Gaby Lopez, the University of Arkansas standout who was runner-up in the NCAA Women’s Championship last May.
“I think this is one of the main reasons we have the tournament,” Ochoa said. “It really opens a door for these players. It’s important for them to be able to play with the top players, to dream about playing the LPGA and see that they belong.”
This same trio of Mexican women played well in Ochoa’s event a year ago. Llaneza tied for 19th and Ramos and Lopez each tied for 23rd. It may be a limited-field event, but it’s a strong field of 36 players.
“I’d love to see Mexico have a team in the Olympics,” Ochoa said. “I think it’s a realistic goal.”
Ochoa’s foundation continues to do the work she dedicated herself to even before she retired.
La Barranca is continuing to grow. That’s the primary and secondary school Ochoa’s foundation supports for 355 students in the impoverished outskirts of Guadalajara, where she grew up. Ochoa’s efforts have helped fund a recent expansion, with a new roof erected over the school’s basketball court and a music program expanded with pianos, cellos, violins and other instruments provided.
“We are really happy with the way it’s been growing,” Ochoa said. “Now that I have more time to be there, it feels good to see the improvements and what all the hard work is doing.”
Ochoa’s Lorena’s Links Community Programs have grown beyond nine sites in Southern California, where they offer outreach activities to families in schools, parks and at her golf academy in Jurupa Valley. Lorena’s Links reaches youth with programs that include golf but go beyond the game. They’ve expanded to Texas now.
The Lorena Ochoa Invitational is an important part of Ochoa’s vision for her country and the game.
“The LPGA’s been a great support,” Ochoa said. “There’s been real teamwork. They understand how challenging it’s been, but how important it is. We’re going to continue to make it happen. Hopefully, next year, it will be easier.”