Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/17/2006 04:12:00 PM
My Sportswoman: Lorena Ochoa
Besides her outstanding morals, Lorena Ochoa won six tournaments this season and topped the LPGA money list.
By Alan Shipnuck
The defining political acts in recent golf history are Hootie Johnson's fierce refusal to open the Augusta National membership to women and, in 1993, the very public grousing by the U.S. Ryder Cup team about having to visit the White House at the invitation of their ideological opposite, Bill Clinton. Of the President, John Cook said at the time, "We are examples of people who work hard and make a lot of money, and he wants to take it away and give it to people who don't give a damn."
Throw in the Shoal Creek controversy of 1991 -- in which the founder of the all-white club hosting the PGA Championship in Birmingham, Ala., said, "We don't discriminate in every other area except the blacks" -- and golf's overriding message to the masses has been that this is an arch-conservative country club sport dominated by rich white guys who have no use for anyone who looks or thinks differently than they do.
This season a young woman from Guadalajara, Mexico, has helped explode golf's backwards ways. For her brilliance on the course and courage away from it, Lorena Ochoa is my pick for Sportswoman of the year.
Ochoa, 26, has long been considered a big-time talent, but she finally realized her potential this year, racking up a tour-best six victories on the way to topping the money list and winning the Vare trophy for lowest scoring average. In her spare time she has very publicly staked out a position on one of the most polarizing issues in America today, immigration.
Ochoa felt her first meta-physical stirrings at this year's Dinah Shore, when she saw images of the massive protests against proposed immigration policies that had taken place days earlier in Los Angeles.
"I got goose bumps," Ochoa said. "I'm not a political person, but I'm very worried about this. It's such a hard time right now. There are so many Mexicans in the U.S. who work hard to support their families here and back home. They really value the opportunities they get here.
"I came to this country, too. I know what it's like to be separated from your family. I want to give them something to cheer for in these difficult times."
She returned to these themes in press conferences throughout the year, but Ochoa also gave the debate a human face. At every tournament she would seek out the Mexican busboys and gardeners and valets that populate swank golf clubs and talk to them about their lives and aspirations. Thus Ochoa has become a hero to a segment of the population that has always been marginalized, and more recently demonized. At the tour stop in Las Vegas, a group of Mexican construction workers hung a hand-made sign at their job site off the 12th fairway cheering on Ochoa.
Athletes have no obligation to speak out on political matters, as Tiger Woods has made plain. But it is always refreshing to discover that underneath the logoed polo shirts beats the heart of an engaged citizen who is not afraid to take a stand, however unpopular it may be with the sport's base.
Lorena Ochoa had a great year, even better than Tiger's. She is a fine example for young girls in Mexico and elsewhere. That being said, what John Cook said about Clinton was correct! Politics and sports should not mix any more than the Dixie Chicks and politics. Sportswomen of the year should be Misty May and Kerrie Walsh. They were more dominant than Lorena Ochoa and every bit the example for young girls.
Lorena Ochoa may be awesome on the fairway, however, I would vote against giving the award to someone who wishes to reward those who break the law. Being an illegal alien is no different than breaking into someone's house. Illegal presence is illegal presence...no matter how cute and cuddly one tries to make it.
The person posting about voting against "rewarding those who break the law" obviously missed the point of the article. As stated, she is a face and representative to a segment of the population that has been blamed for all problems in recent times due to blatant political maneuvering. The same person probably cheered for Tiger Woods when he stood up against courses that banned African Americans. Nowadays, the majority of the courses are worked by Latin immigrants and the swanky houses built for those associated with the courses are built by them as well. Hipocrisy is obviously only limited by ignorance.
Excellent choice. I have no idea what Tour the first poster was watching when mentioning that Misty May and Kerrie Walsh were more dominant. With respect to the second poster, although it has become the norm to hear these types of uninformed and xenophobic points of vew, it should be noted that Ochoa is not "rewarding those who break the law"; she is simply standing up for something she believes in.
Just look at the way Ms. Ochoa conducts herself on and off the golf course. There seems to be no "me" in her actions and style, and something about her exudes a perfect grace. Risking political incorrectness, this is a "lovely" and good human being (the word "great" is overused in our culture.) An excellent choice for sportswoman of the year.
Alan, you did yourself right with your choice of Ochoa for SOTY. And you also revealed that John Cook is, at best, narrowminded and ill-informed. In human history, has there EVER been a better time to be rich and American than the 1990s? And the idea that President Clinton was some sort of left-redistributionist? Please. His signature anti-poverty efforts were, with a GOP Congress, a relatively stern welfare reform package in 1996 and, with a Democratic Congress, a significant increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit in 1993, which clearly and exclusively rewarded work by those who (pay attention now, John Cook) clearly did--and do--"give a damn."