2004: LPGA - Ochoa ascends to first title

Franklin, Tenn.

For a pair of siblings from Guadalajara, it was a day to fulfill a lifetime of dreams. Lorena Ochoa reached the summit of her young professional career, becoming the first Mexican player to win an LPGA event, just hours after brother, Alejandro, completed an ascent of Mount Everest.

Lorena Ochoa’s climb to the top culminated May 16 in the inaugural Franklin American Mortgage Championship, where she shot a final-round 68 to beat Wendy Ward by one stroke. The Ochoa family had learned of Alejandro’s successful climb at about 4:30 a.m. the same day.

“Climbing Mount Everest has been his dream for many years,” Lorena Ochoa said of her 27-year-old brother, before pausing to collect herself. “Before he left, we made a promise that I will win my first tournament, and he will get to the summit, so it was very special.”

Ochoa heard from her parents just before midnight and was told that her brother was due to reach the summit within a couple hours. She tried to turn off her cell phone and sleep but couldn’t until hearing around 4:30 a.m. that he had reached the summit and returned safely to camp.

She talked with her parents, sent e-mails to her brother and his girlfriend, ate breakfast and took a short nap.

After that, she needed to win the tournament to keep her end of the bargain. Ochoa had five birdies and a bogey in the final round and held off three-time winners Ward and Pat Hurst, finishing at 16-under 272.

“I just knew I was going to,” Ochoa said. “I felt very confident in the morning. I was just enjoying very much the whole day. I was very happy.”

The 2003 rookie of the year had come so close to winning, with three seconds and four thirds in her career. Ochoa had 13 top-10 finishes coming into this event and was coming off a tie for second at the Michelob Ultra Open May 9 after letting a share of the third-round lead slip away.

She nearly did it again Sunday on the final hole after Ward, in the group ahead, eagled the par-5 18th. Instead of laying up on her second shot, Ochoa went for the green, hit into the bank in front, and the ball stopped short of the water. She chipped within 15 feet and two-putted to secure the victory.

Ward never expected Ochoa to lay up.

“If she played conservatively, that’d be out of her comfort zone,” Ward said. “I actually thought she’d make the birdie putt, even though it was downhill left to right. It seemed her time to make one.”

Ward closed with a 5-under 67 for a 273 total, and Stacy Prammanasudh (67) finished third. Hurst had a final-round 70 for a 275 total, good for fourth.

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