SBD/Issue 152/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Lorena Ochoa's Planned Retirement A Huge Setback For LPGA

Ochoa Will Discuss Her Retirement
At A News Conference On Friday

Golfer Lorena Ochoa yesterday announced that she plans to "step away from the game at age 28," dealing a "setback to the LPGA," according to Larry Dorman of the N.Y. TIMES. Ochoa will "discuss the details of the early retirement at a news conference on Friday in Mexico City." Her run as the "No. 1 player and top draw in women's golf lasted three years," and following Annika Sorenstam's retirement in '08, the LPGA "loses another marquee player at a time when it is fighting a difficult economy and a diminished playing schedule." Ochoa, an "unfailingly polite and upbeat player," is among the "most popular Mexican athletes of all time, male or female, and was often followed by large contingents of flag-waving Mexican fans at tournaments" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/21). In L.A., Kevin Baxter writes Ochoa's retirement is "latest in a series of recent blows that has left women's golf reeling." An LPGA spokesperson said that tour officials "would not comment on Ochoa's retirement or its impact on women's golf" until after Friday's news conference, but the news "certainly wasn't welcome." Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer: "Obviously when you lose your No. 1 player it certainly is not good news. It's a tough pill to swallow. You provide a stage for your larger-than-life stars and that's what pushes the needle in golf. There's some negatives to that. When you put all your eggs in one basket, sometimes the basket gets a little fragile and the eggs roll out." World Golf HOFer Amy Alcott: "This is kind of a rebuilding time for the LPGA. To lose one of its great stars and great entertainers, that's difficult." Baxter notes Ochoa's retirement, coupled with a "steep decline in sponsorship, plunging TV ratings and a surviving tour roster with few well-known personalities," leaves LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan "battling to keep the LPGA relevant six months after taking the job" (L.A. TIMES, 4/21).

HUGE LOSS FOR LPGA: USA TODAY's Jerry Potter notes the LPGA "had depended on Ochoa to help rebuild a schedule that has 25 tournaments this year." World Golf HOFer Nancy Lopez said of Ochoa and Sorenstam, "These players are so important to the LPGA. For them to not be there at a time when we need them is so sad" (USA TODAY, 4/21). The GLOBE & MAIL's Lorne Rubenstein notes Ochoa has won 27 LPGA tournaments, including two majors, and the LPGA "now has to absorb the loss of Ochoa on top of Sorenstam." Golfer Lorie Kane said, "Annika and Lorena bring people to tournaments and TV. Now we don't have them." Kane added of Ochoa, "I didn't think she'd pull the plug right now. It's definitely another blow to the tour." LPGA Canadian Women's Open Tournament Dir Sean Van Kesteren said Ochoa "endeared herself to everybody," and her retirement "certainly has to hurt the LPGA" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/21). In Charlotte, Ron Green Jr. wrote the loss of Ochoa is a "serious blow to the LPGA tour, which is struggling to regain its footing in the wake of a change in leadership, sponsorship issues and a schedule that's no longer anchored in the United States" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 4/20). Golf analyst Judy Rankin: "It hurts a lot. I think there is other star power and I think certainly there are other wonderful players out there who are still maybe on the climb for what they might achieve. But I don't see how you can say this doesn't hurt." Golfer Christina Kim: "There is no question that her not being at tournaments will be pretty significant. … Without a shadow of a doubt, Lorena is so huge for the game" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 4/20). 

What Does Future Hold For LPGA After
Retirements Of Last Two No. 1 Players?

DOUBLE BOGEY: SI's Damon Hack wrote, "This can't be good news for the LPGA, especially coming two years after Annika's retirement. Ochoa was hugely popular -- with the fans, media, her peers." SI's Jim Herre wrote, "Never helps to lose a top player, but in Lorena's case I think any negative impact will be felt primarily in Mexico and possibly South America. The LPGA has been making inroads in Latin America and Lorena was largely responsible" (GOLF.com, 4/20). In Toronto, Dave Perkins writes under the header, "Great And Gracious Ochoa Will Be Missed." Ochoa will be "missed by golf fans as both a terrific player and a gracious, positive presence" (TORONTO STAR, 4/21). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits wrote Ochoa "has been one of the most humble superstars in golf history." She "didn't have the charisma of Nancy Lopez but she had the same heart of gold" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 4/20). SI's Alan Shipnuck wrote Ochoa's "spectacular talent and starpower will be sorely missed by the LPGA." Meanwhile, Shipnuck noted there is "already some speculation that Ochoa will enjoy a farewell appearance" at the next week's LPGA Tres Marias Championship in Marelias, Mexico, which is "about 40 miles from Guadalajara, where she grew up" (GOLF.com, 4/20).

FAMILY FIRST: In Milwaukee, Gary D'Amato notes it "became increasingly apparent that Ochoa was having a hard time balancing the demands of tournament golf vs. family life." Ochoa's career was "one of style and substance," and the LPGA "will miss her" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/21). GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak noted Ochoa is "newly married and with three stepchildren," and it "has been clear for a while now that her mind was not completely engaged with golf when she was on the course." Sirak: "Perhaps what we are seeing here is an attempt by Ochoa to regroup, settle into her new family and find her footing before finishing up her golf mission. The LPGA can only hope so." Ochoa was "exactly the kind of dynamic, international player" the LPGA "could sell to potential sponsors." An immediate question is "what impact a lengthy Ochoa absence would have on the three LPGA tournaments in Mexico -- including one run by Ochoa" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 4/20). GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Baldry wrote while the "timing of Ochoa's impending retirement came as a shock, the fact that she's walking away so early in her career was expected." Ochoa "long has made it clear that she would not mix family and golf." Ochoa's "eight years on the LPGA provided a platform she undoubtedly will use for good as long as she lives" (GOLFWEEK.com, 4/20). GolfChannel.com's Jay Coffin: "Golf wasn't that important to her the last half of last year, so it really is no surprise that it hasn't been that important to her these first couple months out of the gate in 2010" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 4/20).

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