Golf fans in Mexico City will be treated to a trip down memory lane over the next two days when Hall of Famers Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak and Juli Inkster compete in exhibition matches over the weekend of the Lorena Ochoa Match Play.
Tournament host Ochoa and Inkster will take on Sorenstam and Se Ri in a scramble format at Club de Golf Mexico on Saturday before Ochoa and Sorenstam pair up against Se Ri and Inkster in best ball on Sunday.
The pairings and playing formats were announced by Ochoa during a press conference at Hotel Presidente Intercontinental in Mexico City on Friday evening, Ochoa becoming very emotional on several occasions after being praised by her fellow Hall of Famers for her contributions to the game, and her renowned spirit of generosity.
"I think Lorena is an even better person than she is a golfer, and that's hard to do," Inkster said of Ochoa, Mexico's greatest ever player who has won 27 LPGA Tour titles, including two major championships.
"You could never tell if she’s shooting 76 or 66, she just had a way of carrying herself on the golf course, always smiling, talks way too fast, never could understand a word she was saying."
Sorenstam said: "We are very aware of Lorena’s achievements, but that’s not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of her. I think of her smile, that friendly person with a big heart."
Ochoa, who repeatedly wiped her eyes with a handkerchief while being generously praised by her peers, made a point of thanking each of her three fellow Hall of Famers for agreeing to travel to Mexico for the exhibition matches.
"It’s difficult to express how much being able to play, the four of us together, and just walk 36 holes and be more relaxed," said Ochoa, who has not competed on the LPGA Tour since the 2012 Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
"It is very different, I played with Annika today (in practice), and it was such a special time because it is so great to just play and enjoy and chat, catch up. I’m looking forward to that this weekend."
GETTING IN SHAPE
Asked how much golf she had played over the past year and especially the last month to prepare for the Hall of Fame exhibitions, Ochoa smiled: "Last year almost nothing, I had some clinics and some exhibitions but I wasn’t playing in a serious way at all.
"And this year I started practising to get in shape again. The last three weeks I have been playing on a daily basis to prepare for the tournament."
Sorenstam, who racked up a staggering 72 LPGA Tour wins during her stellar career, including 10 major championship crowns, said she had also played very little golf last year.
"I had some clinics and some exhibitions but I wasn’t playing in a serious way at all," said the Swede. "This year I started practising to get in shape again, and the last three weeks I have been playing on a daily basis to prepare for the tournament."
Korean Se Ri, who retired from competition only last year after winning 25 times on the LPGA Tour, said she had taken an initial break from the game, beaming: "It was too early to pick into golf. I wasn’t ready.
"But the last four days I have been practicing, make sure I’m hitting some balls and actually (hitting it) straight. If you guys can watch my ball for me it’d be great. It’s a lot of pressure going in here. But I’m excited."
Inkster, the only active player among the Hall of Fame quartet who has clinched seven major championship crowns among her 31 LPGA Tour victories, stressed the 'exhibition' nature of the weekend matches.
"We don’t have to do stuff like this often where we can go out there and have some fun and play some golf," said the American. "I don’t think the score is going to be the main thing here but enjoying each other company. I do still play, enjoy playing golf. I’m in a different phase of my life."