The Interview: Lorena Ochoa
After a 10-year playing career that included 27 LPGA Tour wins and two major victories, Lorena Ochoa abruptly retired from the game, despite being the No. 1 ranked female golfer in the world. She did so to start a family, and have a balanced life that includes playing golf, running two foundations and raising her kids. Recently, we caught up with her at the Lorena Ochoa Golf Foundation Annual Tournament right here in Southern California.
What was your greatest accomplishment as a professional athlete?
I was very lucky and was able to play all around the world. But the opportunity to create a foundation for me is the most important thing I’ve done.
In 2017 you will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame; how does it feel to know you made such a profound impact on the game?
When I received the phone call I was very surprised, I thought if it would happen it would come later in my life. Receiving the news was very special because I am going to be able to share this with my family and the people who were with me all the time, supporting my career.
It has also been very special to relive all the memories, think about the tournaments that I won and how special it was when I was playing. I feel honored to be part of this group of so many good players and I am especially proud to be Mexican and be in the Hall of Fame.
What is most rewarding about starting two namesake foundations?
Giving back and helping your community is something we should talk more about. Anywhere you look there are so many people in need.
Overall, what we are trying to do is help kids by giving them the tools to have a better future. If you change one kid’s life, you have changed a whole family or a whole community. It really is a blessing.
Our main goal is to get kids to the golf course. The key is to get them here and not be afraid to ask for help. If they are interested in playing we will help them do it – it is not expensive, we give them the tools. More importantly, it is not only about golf. We challenge them with different ideas and exercises, such as a computer program in coding and science.
The point is just for them to be happy, spend quality time with their family, to be healthy, be moving and be outside. Being outside on a beautiful golf course is something very positive for them, it helps with their futures, with their life.
With just what we are doing here in Riverside, we have seen great changes. We hope to expand to other areas in Southern California, as well as other states such as Texas. We hope to help many more kids.
Having a foundation here in Southern California, what are you hoping to bring specifically to the local community? What is your connection to SoCal?
With there being so many under-privileged kids and minorities in Riverside, it is a very special place to help, and the support we have here at Goose Creek has been amazing, we are like a family. I think we have been able to make a difference and we are all on the same page, it’s great.
Every time I am here they treat us so well and the course is always packed with players for events. It is nice to see how much they love to do what they do, and I am happy to have joined the family and help in any ways I can.
You retired early from professional golf to make way for family, but there is no denying you still balance a busy home and professional life with your foundations and academies. What advice do you have for women trying to balance a family life and successful career?
I think in my playing career, even though it was a short one, I was very lucky to be successful and achieve my dreams. I still like to be active in the game; I think it is important to do what you need to do in your life to be happy.
But for me, my kids and my husband are my priority, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also do things for myself. I am typically gone one day a week, or traveling one night a week. But when I am at home I wake up with the kids in the morning, help them get dressed, give them a ride to school – I love this part of my life and I am learning a lot. Being a mother is really a big challenge.
I think all women need to open their eyes and ask themselves what they really want to do to be happy. Most importantly, try to keep a balance of priorities.
For me, I have my family first, it is the most important thing, then I organize my life to stay active. I love to still play golf and enjoy what I do, and my main motivation is to help the kids through my foundation here in the States and my school in Mexico, where we give free education to kids. It is a big responsibility to keep the foundation and the school running, but I know I can do it.
What is your message to female golfers?
What is most important is to enjoy playing golf and have a good time so you want to go back.
Sometimes it can be boring to go alone, so I think it is good to have somebody you enjoy spending time with on the course. Maybe take a lesson together, try to push each other, help and challenge each other. Just go out on the course and play so you enjoy the time.