I’ve been to major championships, and I’ve been to Solheim Cups on two different continents, but one tournament I wish I could attend is taking place this week in Mexico City.
Not only would I like to see what the massive city looks and feels like, but I would really love to be at this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and JTBC to reconnect with “Mi amiga,” the tournament host. Few players I encountered during my six years as a media coordinator were as friendly and as genuine as Lorena Ochoa, and I was lucky enough to get to know her as well as a PR guy can know a professional athlete he might see just 10 times a year.
I will never forget sitting next to her in the press room in Franklin, Tenn., after she finally broke through for her first LPGA Tour victory at the 2004 Franklin American Mortgage Championship benefiting Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. She cried tears of joy for many reasons, not the least of them being that her big win had come just more than a dozen hours after her brother, Alejandro, safely summited Mount Everest.
That was a press release that wrote itself.
I will never forget the conversations we used to have, me speaking her native language in an attempt to keep my college Spanish fresh and her responding in English as she continued working on mastering the language. We would get the weirdest looks from people who couldn’t process seeing a pale Irishman speaking Spanish and Lorena speaking English, and it used to crack me up every time.
Before the days of non-stop texting, I would scribble out interview requests to her in Spanish and put them in her locker, and she would always come through with a phone call to the media person in time for their deadline. She was a player who “got it,” and the media adored her nearly as much as the fans.
I left the LPGA in the fall of 2004, so I did not get to witness most of her heroics while building what assuredly will soon be a Hall of Fame career, but I always smiled when I read about another of her wins or the fact that she’d been named to TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” list in 2008. To see what she has built and accomplished through the years is staggering, from the creation of her foundation or the fact that she finished her career by making 102 consecutive cuts to finishing in the top 10 at an insane rate of 63 percent of her career starts.
I guess my point in writing about Lorena this week is to say that, while she was a phenomenal golfer, she is an even better person, and I hope fans watching the Golf Channel telecast realize how special this week’s tournament host truly is. She may not even remember me or everything I’ve just written about, but she’s a player I will never forget.