Back home in Mexico, Ochoa embraces her new life
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Lorena Ochoa Invitational
Course: Guadalajara Country Club (6,638 yards, par 72)., Guadalajara, Mexico.
Purse: $1.1 million. Winner's share: $220,000.
Last year: Michelle Wie won her first LPGA Tour title, beating Paula Creamer by two strokes. Wie shot 70-66-70-69.
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Lorena Ochoa hopes to start a family of her own next year. She and husband Andres Conesa, the chief executive officer of AeroMexico, plan to move next summer from their 10th-floor apartment in Mexico City to a house they’re building.
“We want to have an extra room for the baby and a yard for a dog,” she said while sipping a Diet Coke and doodling on a notepad. It’s a natural transition for Ochoa, who walked away from her competitive career last April while ranked No. 1. Her heart had moved on.
Ochoa arrived in her hometown of Guadalajara on Monday afternoon and sat with Golfweek for a lengthy interview at the host hotel of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. She purposefully stayed away from the golf course until Tuesday morning, playing an 18-hole practice round alongside Conesa, who is caddying for the first time.
“I’ve been practicing for four months,” said Conesa, who often got in a quick nine holes with Ochoa in the early mornings before heading to the office.
Conesa, who usually walks the course outside the ropes in jeans, looked out of place and a little nervous in khaki shorts and a caddie bib. Yet both relish the idea of experiencing a tournament together from start to finish.
“For sure, he’s going to make a mistake out there,” Ochoa said, “but I think it’s very important for us to share the whole week inside the course.”
Ochoa hasn’t fared all that well at Guadalajara Country Club in the two years she has hosted the event. She grew up in a modest two-story home adjacent to club property. The club’s swimming pool is her backyard; she could hit a wedge to the short-game facility.
Still, the course she knows so well that she could play barefoot and blindfolded has tricked her during the past several years. A 3-wood that always stopped short of the bunker suddenly rolled in thanks to harder fairways. An 8-iron that always checked bounced forward 4 yards on greens that were firmer and faster.
“I couldn’t get it straight,” said Ochoa, who finished T-14 and T-6 due to slow starts. “I think someone who has never seen the course before has more advantage.”
So this time she stayed away, hoping to come in with a fresh perspective.
Her practice sessions during these past several months were vastly different for the once hard-working perfectionist. She still put the time in, but rather than spend three hours grinding on the range, working the ball back and forth and honing her technique, Ochoa played money games with local teaching pros and thought of nothing but score. One day, she’d have breakfast with a friend and play late; the next, she’d get up early to practice so she could have lunch with Conesa. Occasionally, she wouldn’t set an alarm.
“It’s just nice not to have a plan,” she said.
For years, Ochoa would sit with her brother, Alejandro, and her swing coach, Rafael Alarcon, on Jan. 5 and plan out her schedule for the year. Every day would be accounted for, whether it was a tournament, time dedicated to sponsors, her foundation or the media. Even rest was scheduled.
Friends would tell her in February that they were getting married in May and Ochoa’s heart would sink when she couldn’t attend. The sacrifices began when she was 12, and at 28, she’s happy to be able to say “yes” to friends and family.
Things she used to do once a year, such as scuba dive, she now does three times a month. She and Conesa, who married last December, enjoy weekend road trips outside Mexico City. She makes pancakes for Conesa’s three children from a previous marriage before they go to school.
“It was very clear to me that I didn’t want to be on the LPGA forever,” Ochoa said. “You get too solitary, lonely all the time. You only think about yourself, and you get very comfortable with the money. It was a really tough life, so I didn’t want to do it forever.”
Of course, she feels fortunate. No one would accuse Ochoa of being ungrateful for the life she led, a career that changed the face of golf in Mexico. But to hear her talk about life’s next chapter, to see the look of joy on her face when Conesa lights up her BlackBerry, is enough to know she made the right decision.
Ochoa doesn’t plan to play in any events next year aside from her own. She’ll concentrate on her new home, a growing family and her foundation. She will compete in majors down the road, but not in the next three years. This is family time.
“I think I’m going to double retire after Sunday,” Ochoa said, laughing.