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LADIES PROFESSIONAL GOLF ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 23, 2010
MIKE SCANLAN: Like to thank everyone for joining us today. We have with us Lorena Ochoa, Rolex Rankings No. 1 player in the world who announced her retirement from active play on the LPGA Tour this morning in Mexico City. She's joined by David Higdon, the chief communications officer for the LPGA. And David, we'd like to start with you.
DAVID HIGDON: Good morning, and good afternoon to everybody from beautiful Mexico City. A very special day here for Lorena Ochoa and all her friends and family that were able to join us today.
We're certainly excited that Lorena is looking forward to a new beginning in her new life, and still staying involved with the LPGA Tour.
She announced to the Mexican media today that she will indeed play Tres Marias, and will also be playing her Lorena Ochoa Invitational on an annual basis. So I'll now turn it over to Lorena. Thank you for joining us today.
LORENA OCHOA: You're welcome. Hello, everybody. For sure this is a special day for me. I've been waiting for this time and this is the way I dreamed it. I got here early in the morning and because of the news, everybody had an idea that I was going to announce my retirement, and take a little bit the whole idea and reasons why I'm doing this at this time and for my career.
So what I would like to say after thinking for a few months and for sure after coming from Asia, you know, I made a decision that I would play in San Diego, Kraft Nabisco and Morelia, after I'm going to finish my career in the LPGA.
I'm making this decision because all the elements are together. You know, to start, I always said that I wanted to play for some years, around ten years. And what I wanted to do is achieve my goals and to be the No. 1 player in the world. Retiring today or being at the top, you know, today is my anniversary for three years of being at the top in the Rolex World Rankings.
The second thing I always dreamed and I always wanted to finish here in Mexico. To be able to play my last tournament in front of my crowd, and in the moment of seeing them every day, and together to watch me playing my last tournament over here.
And third, well, finally, I just I'm ready to start a new life. You know, I just want to be a normal person. I just want to live like everyday things and be home, and be back with my family all the time that we lost in the last few years.
I'm ready to move on. You know, once you achieve your goals and you are at the top, it was good to me. But there are so many other things that I'd like to do. I'm really happy today, and I'm pleased. I'm 100% complete. It's great news and I'm super happy.
I'm thanking everyone for their support and all the fans and for the LPGA, and people that have been watching my golf and following my career.
Q. Could you talk to us a little bit about how you made the decision, when you really got serious about it? And if there was a moment when you decided that you had to retire?
LORENA OCHOA: Yes, it was for sure I've been thinking about this decision for the last year. What happened last year was I had a really tough summer. Then after that I said, okay, I'm going to get back to this. I'm going to practice and do everything to finish the year in a good way and achieve my goals. It was great to finish at the end of the last year with the (Rolex) Player of the Year Award and the Vare trophy.
And I came home and I recharged the batteries. I said, okay, I'm going to practice hard. I'm going to make sure I work hard and get ready, and I'm going to try to play one more year, you know.
I just want to be honest with all of you. I went to Asia, and after two or three days of being in Thailand, it was really easy to me -- it was really clear to see that I didn't want to be out there, you know. I just was thinking of other things. I wanted to get home. I wanted to start working on the foundation. I wanted to be here close to my family.
Once you reach your goals, it's really hard to find that motivation. You need to be brave to see that. Just to really listen to your heart and your feelings and be able to see that and make a decision.
Fortunately, it was so clear to me that I just came home and said, "that's it." I'm going to play a couple more tournaments. I'm going to play Morelia and this is the perfect time to finish my career. That's why we are here today, and I'm really happy to say that everything just came together, and this is the perfect time. I'm at the top. I'm really happy in my life. I want to be remembered like that.
Q. Could you speak to exactly what your schedule will be? I know you'll play this coming week, you'll play your event, and then after that will it just be your event or will we see you two, three times a year? What are you thinking?
LORENA OCHOA: Yes, well I'm going next week in Morelia. I'd like to have -- I'm going to become a non-active member of the LPGA. So I'm not going to be playing a full schedule or in more tournaments. I'm playing Guadalajara. For sure I'm the hostess and I'm going to play there to enjoy that week. I'm going to be ready. I'm going to be very competitive and practice hard to play that week.
Then after that, I really have no plans. I'm going to leave the door open in case I want to come back in one or two years to play a U.S. Open or a Kraft Nabisco. If there is a tournament that I would like to go back, but right now, you know, that would be it - Morelia and Guadalajara.
Q. Once you decided it was time to retire, was there anyone close to you that tried to get you to change your mind or reconsider at all?
LORENA OCHOA: No, to be honest with you it was different reactions. But my family and my close friends they understood me and all of them were so happy. Outside of golf course if you don't want to be out here and we support you. My family, especially my dad and my mom, they are like that's great. You're happy with your achievements and it's time to start a different life.
So, no, it's been very great. That's why we're here today and things are good. Things all have come together, and they support me from the beginning and they are here with me today to finish all together.
Q. Is there any scenario under which five, 10 or 15 years from now you could see yourself coming back and playing on a regular basis on the LPGA?
LORENA OCHOA: Yes, well, I don't think I would be back for a full schedule, but I would like to you know maybe play one or two tournaments later in the future. It's too far ahead. Right here I don't know exactly what I want.
For sure I'm going to start a family, you know, maybe in one or two years. Then I'm going to make decisions after that. Maybe I'm going to miss the game, you know, but I'm super happy where I am. Look at Annika where she is right now. So it's one step at a time. I'll let you know for sure.
Q. You talked about how when you were in Asia a few weeks ago it was clear that you didn't want to be there and weren't really enjoying it. When you were at your best, what gave you the most joy when you were playing the game?
LORENA OCHOA: Well, to be clear with it, I did enjoy Thailand and the trip to Asia. I was there with my caddie, my friend, my dad. But inside of me that I didn't want to play competitive golf, it was very clear. I knew something was off. I was not motivated. I was always trying, but that's why I made the decision.
The other thing is that there are some things I enjoy and it's hard. Everything's coming together at the same time right now. And all of these questions are so hard because I have so many great memories. You know, practicing out there, saying hi to my friends and all the players, you know.
The tournaments that I won, especially Kraft Nabisco with all the family jumping in the lake. There are many things that I'm going to keep in my heart and just share with them forever.
Q. How much or did the fact that Annika stepped away from the game and is very happy, how much did that play into your decision if at all?
LORENA OCHOA: No, you know, for sure I want to say thank you to Annika for a nice words in the last few days. But this isn't a surprise because I have planned this for many, many years, you know. I wanted to play for around ten years. I wanted to be able to achieve my goals to stay at the top. Then after that I wanted to move on.
There are so many good things in life. Other things than playing sports. So the time is here. Now that I see Annika, you know, it's easier for the media, the people outside, you realize this is why we're making this decision.
Q. As you look forward, what would you anticipate that you'll miss most about tournament golf? Aside from the travel, what's been the most difficult or unpleasant thing of tournament golf that you won't miss at all?
LORENA OCHOA: I'm going to miss it all. It's the whole package. Good times and bad times. I think I have no bad memories. You know, I've been through a lot, and we understand each other. Life on tour is not easy, but we choose to do that for a reason. We get back so much.
I'm really going to miss my friends, the players, just to see them at the golf course and watching them hit balls at the range. Everything all set up, the bleachers, the greens perfect. Practicing on a Monday or Tuesday when the course is quiet in the afternoon. I'm going to miss so many things. You know what I mean? I'll miss my suitcase. But at the same time I want to keep in me all the great memories.
Q. I was wondering, you were No. 1 for three years, No. 1 is a burden or has been for some players over the years they've said it's heavy to carry it. I wonder if that may have made your life more difficult and hastened your retirement because you took on a lot. You represented Mexico in a way probably no player has ever represented their country. I wonder how much all of that weighed on you after a while and made retirement come faster?
LORENA OCHOA: Well, retirement didn't come faster. Maybe that's how it looks from the outside. But it just came at the right time. No, I never felt the pressure. More than pressure or weight, it was joy and happiness, and words of support, from the media, from the fans all around the world and here in Mexico.
You know, all of us think that's what it takes to be the best in the world. So I have nothing to say but good things for all I have and what I've achieved. I'm simply making the decision today because this is the right time. This is the perfect time.
I always said that I wanted to leave as No. 1, and that's what I'm doing and it's all good news, you know. I'm really happy. I've never been this happy, and I'm ready to move on and, you know live my life now in a different way.
Q. Do you think that the players of your generation might follow your lead and they may not want to play the tour for more than a decade and have other interests? I was talking earlier this week with Nancy Lopez about her situation. She just thought she wished you hadn't quit so soon, but she said maybe this was the way it was going to be. Can you speak to that?
LORENA OCHOA: Yes, my advice for the young players, my advice to all of them would be make sure you finish your junior career and go to college and then become professional after that. The LPGA is going to be there forever. There is no rush.
In that case, you live your life and live a more normal, I guess, you can say, the process of learning how to play college golf. Then you get a degree and mature inside and outside the golf course, and then jump to the LPGA.
In that case, you are prepared for life, you are 22, and then you can play golf for the rest of your life for ten years or 15 years.
I guess I'm afraid when the young players are 17 and 18 and they're talking about playing professional golf. You know, maybe qualify your players so they find a balance in their life and they don't want to play too young.
So I say stay in college, go to college, stay in college. Figure out what you want to do 100%, so by the time you play three or four years you don't burn out and you can stay playing golf for longer.
And the answer about Nancy Lopez, for sure it was my plan just to be in the LPGA for a few years and then come to Mexico to do other things. So I'm really happy, and I'm ready to start working hard here in Mexico with the foundation.
Q. I was wondering who you got advice from? Was there anybody in particular that you talked to making this decision? I read that maybe it was Juli, Juli Inkster. Did she say anything?
LORENA OCHOA: You know, I didn't talk to anybody. I just, that's something that I knew, you know that it was time to make a decision and I made the decision from my heart.
I never doubt or never had second thoughts. That's why it was easy. Something that is very important to talk about today is some athletes are forced to retire. Some athletes are No. 1, or and they finish in tenth place or 15th place, and what happens is the quit because they get injured.
In this case, because of me, because I wanted to because I wanted to follow my beliefs. And I achieved what I wanted to achieve. If you want to do it, and you're doing it for the right reasons, then the decision is easy.
I did talk to Juli, as a friend, and I said I'm thinking about announcing my retirement. And I want to thank you for this great time that we've spent together. I really admire her. She is amazing.
You know, she said, I want to cry, and I said, me too, let's cry for happiness because this is something that I'm super happy about. It's good news, no bad news. And Juli gave me a big hug, and said thank you for everything, so it was nice to have that moment.
Q. Can you just talk about player support and how much have you heard from the players these last couple days since this announcement came out?
LORENA OCHOA: I've heard a lot of nice things. Some of them are shocked. My message would be: don't be shocked, because that's the way I've been doing everything in my life. And I just wanted to share and wanted to transmit my happiness. You know, because I think you see are happy with all you want and all you achieve. It's enough, you know.
You are at the top. And I just wanted to move into No. 1 and I'm ready to take the next steps. So thank you for the great memories.
Q. Your statistics clearly make you eligible for the Hall of Fame. But I believe you have to play ten years. I'm wondering if by playing a tournament or two a year, whether that will qualify you and whether you've thought about it? The second question is since you got married in December, I know you've always talked about starting a family. You kind of inherited a family when you got married with the three children. Did that affect your decision to really want to do this family thing sooner rather than later?
LORENA OCHOA: To answer your first question, yes, there are two ways to get into the Hall of Fame. For sure, you have to get the points, and then you play ten years. So I'm not going to have those ten years in my career.
The other way too is there is a thing too you can qualify through the LPGA. But there is a way that you can get in by veterans committee. They get together and they make a decision. So, you know, hopefully I can be there. I'd love to. It's for sure a dream for me and something very important.
But at the same time I did my best. And I did it in a short time. Hopefully I'll get back a nice surprise in the next few years.
About the family, for sure, Andres has been involved in this decision, and that's why I'm so happy and I want to stay around. But what we want to do, you know, we want to just maybe begin this one or two years and live together just like a couple a normal couple.
And I can go with him to his meetings or whatever he needs to attend. We can take vacations together you know sometimes and go to Guadalajara to visit the family. Just be normal for a couple of years, and then hopefully we can start a family afterwards.
Q. A question about true retirement. God willing in your old age, how do you want to look back at your life? What do you want your legacy to be and how do you want people to remember you as a player and person?
LORENA OCHOA: For sure I want to be remembered as a good person. I want to be remembered for the things that I would do outside the golf course. I did play golf for a reason, and the achievement and to be able to reach out and help others.
I do want to be remembered for the things outside the golf course. I'm going to work really hard, and this is the compromise I have to myself, a responsibility to give back in order to help others to make a change in their life. I'm going to work on that. That is my goal.
Q. The LPGA, like some other sports leagues, has been going through some challenging times with the economy. You've been very good for the women's tour. What will the impact of your departure as a full-time player have on women's golf which now has lost two transcendent stars in the last couple of years?
LORENA OCHOA: Well, that's for sure a good question, but it's hard for me to answer. We're trying to, I think the message we are trying to send is instead of what the Tour's going to do without me, we're trying to put the positive interest, and how much I tried to help for the last few years.
And I'm sure in time with the sponsors and you have so many new players, and the No. 1 position in the world is so close. We'll see who wins. And again, being global, it's going to help have more tournaments in different places.
You know, I did my best, and it's been a wonderful ride. I'm going to continue helping the LPGA in any way I can.
Q. Did anyone from the LPGA try to talk you out of this decision?
LORENA OCHOA: No. I first talked to Michael Whan, our commissioner, and he was very understanding. He said, Are you sure? Are you sure? Can I convince you to stay?
And in a way he was joking, but at the same time very sincere. And then two seconds after that he said you know, you have all the support. You've done so much for the tour. You're happy with your decision, and we're going to respect that. It's going to be hard, but we're going to move on, and we're ready to make the tour better.
So they've been very supportive as well as everybody at the LPGA Tour, I want to say thank you. And I'm going to be around. Don't worry. If I can help in any way, they know that they can find me and we're going to help each other.
Q. You mentioned earlier the scene at the lake after you won at the Kraft Nabisco. It seemed at the end of that almost half of Guadalajara was in the water. I just wonder if you have any one memory that sticks out above all the others, one golf memory?
LORENA OCHOA: You know, I don't. I don't want to leave any of them out. I'm going to keep them all. I have so many great memories. Some of those tournaments when you lift the trophy, and you maybe cry a little bit after you finish.
But I think overall it's the big picture. It was a Mexican that stayed at the top of the world. It was a new sport for my country, and just the whole process and working hard together, those were great memories I'm going to keep forever.
Q. I know it's a long way off. But six years out there is the Olympics. And Andres mentioned how much you represented Mexico with your golf. Is it a possibility or have you considered when you approach that Olympic year that you might make some kind of return to the game? Would you want to represent Mexico in the first ever Olympics for golf?
LORENA OCHOA: Well, it's something that, it will be great to do. But right now it's too far ahead. I'm just trying to move on little by little. I'm going to stay competitive. I would like to continue to practice and play some exhibitions and some invitation in local tournaments. But that's too far ahead. We'll talk about it when it gets closer.
Q. Those who weren't there today didn't get to see you in person like I was fortunate to do, and the emotions were obviously very tough for you. What was it like up there and saying what you had to say and having your family sitting right in front of you and your sponsors and partners? Maybe articulate a little about what you went through over the last hour?
LORENA OCHOA: For sure a lot of emotion. It's hard to explain myself in English, but very special day. Probably the most special day in my career.
I always say when you're a professional athlete, there is a day when you start, and there's always going to be a day when you finish, and this is the perfect time for me. I'm very relaxed in a way that this has gone the way I want it to with my beliefs and my reasons.
When you make the decision and it's for the right reasons you know, being here back home and helping other people, being close to your family, then it's all he joy. My family, we all start together with the dream. And they all helped me in every day things with practicing, staying at home, you know, with school and homework, and traveling.
And we all start together and we all finished together. That was the most important thing because when you win you can share that, and when you lose a tournament and you have difficulties, when you are with them, people that love you and your family, it's easier.
It's been like that the whole time, up-and-down, great memories, and we all stay together. So we're probably going to celebrate today, and laugh a little bit and probably cry about all the great memories, and I will move on to get ready for next week. Thank you everybody.
MIKE SCANLAN: Lorena, on behalf of all the LPGA staff that are listening today, we just want to thank you for all you've done for the LPGA, and wish you all the best.
LORENA OCHOA: Thank you, Mike. Thank you everybody, thank you for all the help, and the good times in the last few years.
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