Former world number one Lorena Ochoa makes a limited return to professional golf this week when she tees up in the Lacoste Ladies Open de France at Chantaco Golf Club in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Aquitaine, France, on the Ladies European Tour from October 4-7.
The 30-year-old Mexican was No.1 for three years and won two majors and 27 tour victories before retiring from full-time golf in April 2010 to focus on her family and charities.
In this interview, Lorena discusses her reasons for playing in France.
Lorena, what brought you to Chantaco to play the Lacoste Ladies Open de France this week?
It’s an easy answer. Having Lacoste as a sponsor, they asked me to come and play the tournament. They asked me actually last year and I couldn’t because I was pregnant so I said, no, it would be too difficult for me. I prefer to wait for next year. Here I am and I’m very happy to support the tournament. They’ve been very good to me being my sponsor for so long so I’m happy to be here.
What do you think of the Chantaco golf course?
I played the golf course about four years ago when I came to play an exhibition so I remember some of the holes and how the course it. I like it. I think it’s difficult, some of the greens are really undulated and quick greens so it’s going to be an interesting week.
How do you feel about your chances of success here?
I’m going to try my best. I don’t practise anymore and I’m very relaxed in Mexico. My life is very different right now so I’m just going to try my best and have a good week and enjoy the crowd and the kids, if they come to watch us. I promise to do my best!
Your son, Pedro is here.
Yes, nine months old. He is coming tomorrow.
Will he be a golfer?
Maybe! We wait! I promise that I will teach him but then after that he can do whatever he wants.
How do you feel about playing in a professional tournament again?
I’m excited because it’s a good opportunity for me to be able to play in a regular tournament and see how it goes. I’m not going to put pressure on myself because I don’t practice anymore. My life is very different so be relaxed and try to smile out there. If I make a mistake I will be easy on myself and I think it should be okay. I think I’m going to do okay.
How is your life now in Mexico?
I’m very busy. I like to stay active. I do have my foundation, that’s my priority and I do play in some tournaments to raise money for the foundation. I’m also… my book is coming out, my book about my life and my experiences on tour. I’m very excited about that, to be able to share with others. Right now, I am preparing for my tournament in Guadalajara, I’m going to play in November the Lorena Ochoa Invitational so that’s also something good. I give speeches. Sometimes they ask me to go to a school or university or some company and give a speech and I like it. I do a lot of things. Some people think that you are retired and just sitting at home but no, I’m active all the time and doing different activities and I like it. I give clinics and I like kids very much.
What are your plans for next year and will you play in any more professional tournaments?
No, no. I do play exhibitions but not regular tournaments like this. They invited me and I went about three weeks ago to Oslo, to Norway to play a one day exhibition. They called me to go to the States and I went for a one or two day exhibition, like a scramble or best ball. I do things like that. That’s easy. I’m playing just okay so it’s okay to play one or two days. I do most of the tournaments for charity. I think we are very lucky to be able to do what we do, play some golf, so for sure, I do that. I like very much to spend time with the kids at the foundation, that’s my priority right now, my foundation. Lacoste sponsor and helped me to build a sports facility: a multiple use field where you can play volleyball, basketball. We have that at the school, at the foundation, so it’s great.
How do you select which underprivileged kids get to come to your foundation?
We have more than 350 kids. We decided in the community that what is important is that the whole family gets involved in the programme. The mothers come in the morning and they cook for the kids. They have breakfast at the school. They do some warm ups and then they come to classes. What we believe is that the whole community needs to be involved in the programme to be able to help improve and make the whole system successful. We have about 40 kids per classroom so every year, when the first grade is open we are very sad to sometimes leave some kids out because we don’t have enough room, but right now the school is running great and we’re very happy to be able to support them.
Is education a priority?
Yes, because in Mexico the education is really bad and sometimes kids cannot go to school. They do not have transportation and they do not have a way to get into a public school. The teachers sometimes don’t even get to the school to give lessons. It’s a very difficult situation in Mexico so I decided I wanted to build my school and help some kids and it’s going well so I’m happy. That is my motivation. When I do things in Mexico, it’s to get some funds for the school.
Do you feel more proud of that or of your golf career?
The foundation is better. I think winning tournaments says something; that I was very blessed and lucky to do, but I always prefer to be remembered for the things outside the golf course. I think it’s more important and also all the time I give speeches or talk to others I think it’s very important to be aware that there are a lot of people that need help and just for them, to be able to give back, it could be money, it could be time, I like to help in that way and make people aware that there are so many others in need that we need to get together and help as much as we can.
How do people donate?
You can be a sponsor for one kid all year and it’s only 1100 US dollars a year or so for one kid. You get charged on your credit card a little less than 100 dollars a month. That supports one kid for the whole year and gives them food, material, things to work on in school and it pays for their whole expenses. We have some kids that are sponsored, maybe 45 per cent have like Godmothers or Godfathers, you know. The rest have sponsors and we try to raise money for them.
You are now a TV presenter on CNN Living Golf Español. What is that like?
It’s something different. It’s nice to have the opportunity to talk about golf and give some news and to give some tips. I like very much the programme. I like a new challenge and being able to present this programme really helped me to keep myself going and to learn about production and how you should do things and how they look and putting things together. I like it. A couple of golfers flew to Mexico and did some things with us. Maybe I will film some things with the players here this week.
If you win the Lacoste Ladies Open de France this week will you return next year?
Yes, for sure! I need to defend!