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Ochoa to Retire


The four-time reigning LPGA Tour Player of the Year, Lorena Ochoa, has announced she is retiring after a short but stellar eight-year career.

The Tuesday announcement was a bombshell for the LPGA Tour, which has been struggling to retain - and find new - sponsors amid diminishing interest in the circuit by golf fans.

The 28-year-old from Guadalajara plans to hold a press conference Friday, April 23, in Mexico City to outline her plans and the timeline for when she'll actually stop playing. "Lorena gladly will share this news and the next stages of her career accompanied by sponsors, friends and family," according to a statement from the Ochoa Group management agency.

Ochoa has racked up 27 tournament wins since 2003, including two majors, the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship and the 2007 Women's British Open.

Last year Ochoa married Andres Conesa, former chief executive officer of Grupo Aeromexico SA, Mexico's largest airline. Since that time, Ochoa has often discussed leaving professional golf to raise a family and tend to her various charities in Mexico and the U.S.

The statement - "Lorena Ochoa confirms her retirement from the LPGA" -jarred followers of the LPGA Tour. "I am just crushed," Judy told Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press. Rankin, a Hall of Famer and television analyst, has found Ochoa to be a gracious, courteous person on and off the course.

"We won't get to see her play golf. Mostly, we won't get to see her," Rankin said. "Everybody likes her a lot - you can hardly not like her. She's one of those people who brightens your day when you see her, and she does that for lots of people. Aside from the fact she's an extraordinary golfer, it's the person who is really going to be missed. She's unlike any star athlete I've ever known."

Ochoa reached the minimum points required for entry into the World Golf Hall of Fame two years ago, but needs to complete 10 years of LPGA Tour membership for induction. "As it relates to the Hall of Fame, her career record will be such that she qualified on points but fell short of the 10-year criteria," said Jack Peter, chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame. "That's the first time this has ever happened."

"There has been an unusual frustration with her golf," Rankin told Ferguson. "I think in someone like Lorena's case, she's so dedicated to what she does that part of the frustration is she wasn't giving 100 percent, even though she meant to. Other things clearly were more important. People may think you're talented if you wind up on top of the heap, but it's a huge commitment to get there."

The great Annika Sorenstam felt the same way when she retired two years ago, fulfilling a pledge to stop when she couldn't give it her all. "Though I was older than Lorena, it is still hard to play - and play at the level you demand of yourself - when your heart and mind are somewhere else," the Swede wrote on her blog. "While the LPGA will certainly miss her great play, warm demeanor and smile, I am personally very happy for her. The most rewarding days are ahead of her."