Past meets present at Ochoa Invitational
Here's something you normally do not hear during the buildup to a professional golf tournament:
"[Her belly] is huge. I guess it's a boy. I was really happy to see her. I wish she could play, but I'm very happy to see her going to have a baby soon. She looks very happy."
That was Yani Tseng's reaction Wednesday after visiting with Lorena Ochoa.
After completing a monthlong venture through the Far East, the LPGA this week is in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the fourth annual Lorena Ochoa Invitational. This week is a chance for the past to visit with the present.
Ochoa, who turns 30 next week, was the LPGA's best player and top goodwill ambassador before her surprising retirement two seasons ago.
After accumulating 27 LPGA career wins and becoming a Mexican sports hero, Ochoa walked away from the game in May 2010, saying she wanted to start a family and concentrate on her foundation for underprivileged children.
During the first three seasons on the event that carries her name, Ochoa added to the week as a host/competitor. But this year, near her due date, she's watching from the sideline.
"It is fun for me and in a different way, being here in the tournament outside the golf course," she told reporters Wednesday. "I'm trying to enjoy. Now this is a different way for me. I'm also trying to get ready for being a mom and then I think I am ready for this. You never get ready enough. But I'm very excited.
"It's also great for me to say hey to the players and be more involved outside the ropes and in interviews and spending time with my sponsors some of the time. I like it a lot. I'm going to enjoy every day of the tournament from the outside."
Tseng, the world No. 1, has won 11 times worldwide this year, including seven LPGA titles and two majors. When Ochoa announced her retirement, previous LPGA headliner Annika Sorenstam predicted Tseng would take over the game. She was right.
But has Tseng filled the void left by Sorenstam and Ochoa?
"No, not yet," Tseng said Wednesday. "I feel like it's a long way to go. Like I say, this is just the beginning. I mean, they are my big idols, my superstars. I feel there's still a long way. There's still a lot of things I can learn, I can improve. Two of them, it is my goal to become like them. So I will do my best and just keep working hard to be like them."
Off the course, Ochoa also has left her mark with her foundation. Last year's tournament winner, I.K. Kim of South Korea, donated her $220,000 winner's check to charity, half going to the Lorena Ochoa Foundation. Kim was so moved by Ochoa's efforts that she returned to Guadalajara in April to visit La Barranca, a primary school with 250 underprivileged students that is operated by Ochoa's foundation and was the beneficiary of her gift.
"It was a great surprise to be here on Sunday and be given the news," Ochoa said, recalling last year's awards ceremony. "From the bottom of my heart, I always want to say thank you, and she knows. Her visit was very special. It's different when you see the real school activities and see how much fun they have and how happy they are.
"They are clean, and their uniforms and the facility and all of that. We put her plaque and her name in one of the classrooms. So you know she's appreciated for the rest of her life."
The limited-field 36-player event, featuring eight of the world's top 10, will tee off Thursday at Guadalajara Country Club to compete for a $1 million purse, including a $200,000 first-place prize.
Heading the field will be Tseng, seeking to capture her eighth victory on the LPGA Tour this season and her 12th overall, and defending champ Kim, who is seeking her third career win and first of the season. Also in the field are former winners Angela Stanford (2008) and Michelle Wie (2009).Hosts with the Most
Hosting your own tournament is nothing new in the LPGA.
Although the Lorena Ochoa Invitational is the only tournament currently on the LPGA schedule named for a player, 15 have carried a golfer's name, beginning with the Betty Jameson Open that debuted in 1952 in San Antonio.
The real trick is winning your own tournament. Babe Zaharias won the first Babe Zaharias Open in 1953 at her hometown Beaumont (Texas) Country Club. Mickey Wright won the Mickey Wright Invitational in the San Diego area three times at three locations in the 1960s. Shirley Englehorn also won the 1967 Shirley Englehorn Invitational in Caldwell, Idaho.China's Best
Shanshan Feng, perhaps the best player, male or female, from China and the only LPGA Tour member from that country, twice has come close to winning her first title.
Last week, Feng, 22, lost to Momoko Ueda on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff at the Mizuno Classic for her second career runner-up finish. In 2008, at age 19, Feng made an eagle in each round on the way to a second-place finish behind Angela Stanford at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic.
Feng has earned more than $1.2 million in four years on the LPGA Tour. This season, she is ranked a career-best 30th on the money list with two events remaining.