Legendary LPGA foursome assembles, inspires at Lorena Ochoa Match Play

LPGA Tour-Julie Inkster-Se Ri Pak-Lorena Ochoa-Annika Sorenstam- Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Legendary LPGA foursome assembles, inspires at Lorena Ochoa Match Play

LPGA Tour

Legendary LPGA foursome assembles, inspires at Lorena Ochoa Match Play

MEXICO CITY – This was Lorena Ochoa’s gift to the people. To those who have been with her from the beginning, and to those only now learning about the game, Ochoa brought together a foursome of LPGA legends to give Mexican fans something to carry with them always.

And so they gathered on the first tee – Annika Sorenstam, Juli Inkster, Se Ri Pak and Ochoa – global stars who won 155 LPGA titles between them.

Four players who have each shaped the game of golf in profound ways. The exhibition took place in between the Round of 16 and quarterfinals of the Lorena Ochoa Match Play on a sensational spring day.

“I would never turn down an opportunity like this to walk the fairways with these three Hall of Famers,” said Sorenstam.

To watch Ochoa go through her routine on the first tee was like seeing an old friend.

Tip of the cap. A wave to the crowd. An easy swing followed by the sign of the cross and a kiss. None of it has changed. The swing remains vintage Lorena, with the familiar double-pump at the finish.

And then something new: Ochoa picked up her tee and jogged to the rope line to huge to two of her young children, Pedro (5) and Julia (3). Her 14-month-old Diego was napping nearby in a baby carriage.

The woman who dominated the LPGA in a joyful fashion has transitioned seamlessly into motherhood, experiencing the best of both worlds.

Ochoa knew when she quit the tour in 2010 that she’d come up short of the LPGA’s 10-year playing requirement for the Hall of Fame. She accepted that in order to move on with what her heart desired: a family.

When the phone call came earlier this year that Ochoa had been tabbed for the World Golf Hall of Fame, she was stunned that it came so early.

Not long after the news, Ochoa came up with the idea of inviting three of her peers – all of them inspiring to her in their own ways – to join her in a Hall of Fame exhibition. She got out her iPhone and crafted a personal message. All three accepted immediately.

The only hangup: format.

“I can tell you that we are all a little bit stressed about playing good golf,” Ochoa said earlier in the week.

Pak, who retired last October, only started practicing again within the past week.

Sorenstam typically plays 10 to 12 rounds per year and hits balls a couple times a month. Inkster, who reminded everyone on the first tee that she’s the oldest at 56, remains the only active competitive player of the group. She has made the cut in four of five starts this season.

As for Ochoa, she started work on her game only a few weeks ago. Good friend Shanti Granada, whom she first met 30 years ago when the two signed up for a golf lesson with 20 little boys in Guadalajara, helped Ochoa get back in the groove.

“That’s all she needs,” said Granada of the short tuneup. The only thing Ochoa has changed in her equipment since she retired seven years ago is fresh grips on her clubs. The exceptional feel player doesn’t wear a glove.

Ochoa, who paired with Inkster for the Day 1 scramble, stuffed a shot in close on the first hole and said she couldn’t have asked for a better start. Pak and Sorenstam matched their opening birdie to the delight of a generous crowd.

It felt like old times on the LPGA. “We should all quit right now,” Inkster cracked. “It’s not going to get better than that.”

Until, that is, Inkster and Ochoa eagled the second hole and birdied the third to take a sizable lead.

The fact that Ochoa and Inkster finished four strokes ahead of Sorenstam after 18 holes is but a footnote to the day. This was a celebration, a rare chance for LPGA legends to come together for light-hearted fun.

“Being with them was just amazing,” said Ochoa. “All of us are going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”

Those fortunate enough to see it in person would say the same.

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