Lorena Ochoa announces retirementWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
The world’s No. 1-ranked woman’s golfer, Lorena Ochoa, surprisingly announced her retirement from LPGA Tour competition. Ochoa is relatively young to face retirement from her chosen profession. She became a full member of the LPGA Tour a scant seven years ago. She burst onto the tour in 2003 with 8 top ten finishes and ended the year ranked ninth with total winnings of $823,740.
Since then, she has won 27 titles and amassed over $14.8 million in earnings. She has been the LPGA Tour’s leading money earner three of the past five years and has not finished outside the top 10 in year end rankings since joining the Lady’s Tour. Her best year was 2007 when she won eight times, finished in the top 10 in 21 of the 25 events that she entered and totaled $ 4.4 million in earnings for the year.
During her career of 172 LPGA tournaments she has finished in the top ten 90 times; that is an astonishing 53.5 percent. Ochoa has not missed a cut since October, 2005. It is fair to say that she has dominated women’s golf over the past five years. She is going out at the top of her game very unusual for a modern-day athlete.
Ochoa is a highly recognizable persona and the No. 1 star on the LPGA Tour. Her retirement could not come at a more inopportune time for LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. He has been trying to rebuild relationships with tournament sponsors and in turn add events to the women’s tour. One of the key components of that process is to have a marketable product. Ochoa with her past success and likable demeanor gave the LPGA a bona fide celebrity. Whan’s job will be more difficult since young stars like Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, and Paula Creamer have not been consistent winners and thus have yet to achieve superstar status.
The LPGA Tour arrives in Toledo at the end of June for the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic with a lot of questions left unanswered. Can the young players step up their game and accept the responsibility of becoming the premier players on the LPGA Tour? Will sponsors be willing to pump millions of dollars back into the women’s tour to keep it a viable sports league? Is there an even younger unknown player just over the horizon that can emerge onto the scene and give the LPGA a kick start? How can the LPGA maintain the tournaments that it currently enjoys, keep the sponsors happy, and continue providing the dollars that are created for the charities and the local communities?
Commissioner Michael Whan and the members of the LPGA Tour have a lot of work ahead of them. It appears that Whan is doing the right things and is beginning to make some headway in improving the tour. Without his No. 1 player, Ochoa, his job just got a little more difficult.
Contact one of the local Toledo charities that are benefiting from the “Charity Ticket Program, presented by O-I,” order your ticket package for the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, help your charity and see firsthand how these young women golfers can make a golf ball do amazing things. Maybe I’ll see you on the “Back 9.”