Ochoa Seeking First Open Win

Top-ranked Women's Player Has 26 Titles But Mexican Star Hasn't Won Major This Year

July 09, 2009|By Andre D. WIlliams | Andre D. WIlliams,Tribune Newspapers

BETHLEHEM, Pa -. - Lorena Ochoa looks so young she could pass for a teenager.

Not an ordinary one, of course, because not many teenagers can afford to walk around wearing an expensive diamond ring, chain and earrings.

But Ochoa has earned the finer things.

She was a star golfer in Mexico by age 6 and her popularity and talent have been on the rise ever since.

Now 27, Ochoa is the No. 1-ranked women's golfer in the world and the greatest female golfer ever from Mexico.

"I'm very proud to be Mexican and I'm very proud to represent my country in my sport," she said.

In 2004, Ochoa became the first Mexican-born player to win an LPGA event. Her title count is now at 26 and she'd like to add another at the U.S. Women's Open, which begins today at Saucon Valley Country Club.

Ochoa, whose highest finish in the Open was second in 2007 at Southern Pines, doesn't need to win the Open this year to add to her fame in Mexico.

"It's nice every time I get back home," Ochoa said. "They wait for me and follow what I'm doing. They're learning so much about the LPGA, about golf in general.

"I'm just trying to be part of the history in my country as an athlete." Ochoa has already inspired younger golfers to try to follow in her footsteps.

"Every time I get back home I try to spend time with the juniors and try to motivate them and talk to them about how the professional life is and encourage them to try it," she said.

With nearly $14 million in career earnings, third-best all-time among LPGA players, Ochoa has been the perfect role model. And she's still young and determined.

She was among several key players calling for LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bevins to resign. Ochoa took part in the players' meeting that spawned the resignation letter and stepped up Wednesday to address the controversy that could overshadow the championship.

"We as players, we want to be more involved in what is happening and we want to see the tour going in a better direction," she said.

For the last three days, the 5-foot-6 Ochoa has studied the Old Course at Saucon and is now ready to bring her 'A' game and make amends for her disappointing 31st-place finish in the Open at Edina, Minn., last year.

She has not won a major this year, but that could change with four good rounds.

"I like the shape of the holes," Ochoa said Wednesday during a news conference. "I think it's good for my driver. The greens are so hilly. They have so many different slopes. You just need to make sure you keep the ball in the right position on the greens."

Paula Creamer concurred with Ochoa on the course setup.

"When I think of the U.S. Open, definitely this course defines that," she said. "It's tight; there's not many birdie opportunities that you can make out there."

Ochoa hasn't had much trouble adjusting throughout her career, but with success has also come greater expectations.

Though she's still ranked No. 1, Ochoa has not lived up to her billing in 2009. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand to start March, then placed second in the MasterCard Classic March 20-22 in Huixquilucan, Mexico. Her only other victory was the Corona Championship in Michoacan, Mexico, April 23-26.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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