also subsidizes a school in Taplapa for at-risk youths and funds a program in
Guadalajara to provide treatment and support for children with cancer. In the
development stage is an initiative to identify schools throughout Mexico that
are underperforming and then use foundation resources to upgrade the
infrastructure and provide more training for teachers and administrators.
For these efforts
as well as her performance on the golf course, Ochoa was recently named to Time
magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people. In Mexico she has
transcended the sports pages and become a national sweetheart, beloved by
people who will never lay eyes on a golf green. "Lorena is one of the rare
athletes who just gets it," says Alfredsson. "She's like an Arnold
Palmer or Nancy Lopez or Muhammad Ali—she understands the power she has to
change the world."
For Ochoa, her
benevolent impulses boil down to something very basic: "I have been given
so much in my life. I have a lot of giving back to do."
OCHOA GREW up in a
five-bedroom house adjacent to the Guadalajara Country Club with her parents,
two older brothers—Javier, 33, and Alejandro, 31—and a younger sister, Daniela,
24. Her father, a real estate developer, and her mother, an abstract artist,
shared a love of the outdoors, and Lorena had an idyllic childhood. The family
had a cabin 100 miles west of Guadalajara, in the Sierra Madre. Lorena grew up
hiking, climbing, horseback riding and mountain biking. When the Ochoas wanted
a change of scenery, they camped on the beach, and Lorena turned into a wake
boarder and water-skier. (She is also a hellacious snowboarder.) In all of
these pursuits she was forever trying to keep up with her big brothers, both
accomplished adventure athletes.
In 1999 Alejandro
talked Lorena into joining him for a four-day ecothon. At 17 she was the
youngest person in the field of 144 athletes. The final challenge called for a
three-mile swim in a lake with water so cold that three teams dropped out
because of hypothermia, but Lorena powered her way to the finish line. "My
dad, my brothers, they always told me I could do anything," she says. With
a laugh, she adds, "if I was tough enough."
has served her well in golf. She first picked up a club when she was five, and
for years she was the only girl who played at Guadalajara Country Club. Her
mentor was Rafael Alarc�n, who knocked around the PGA and Nationwide tours in
the 1980s and '90s. Ochoa used to sit at the range and watch, transfixed, as
Alarc�n hit balls. He began teaching her when she was nine. "When she was
12, Lorena told me she wanted to be the best player in the world," says
The University of
Arizona was one step along the way. After a record eight victories in 10
college events as a sophomore, Ochoa turned pro, arriving on the LPGA tour in
2003. Sorenstam was coming off an epic season during which she won 11 times.
Ochoa became the heir apparent after taking the rookie of the year award in
'03, but she and Sorenstam were as different as fire and ice. Sorenstam's game
was a monument to Nordic reserve—precise and plodding, to minimize mistakes.
Ochoa's rounds could be set to a mariachi beat, as her attacking and
occasionally risky play produced barrages of birdies. But early in her pro
career she was also prone to the big mistake. In her first three LPGA seasons
she had 36 top 10 finishes yet only three wins.
Ochoa has always
been the quintessential feel player. Her quirky swing featured a lot of head
movement and an unorthodox rerouting of the club at the top. As she struggled
to close out tournaments, there were whispers that the swing couldn't hold up
under pressure. An ugly example came at the 2005 U.S. Women's Open, when she
arrived at the 72nd tee a stroke off the lead. She uncorked a drop-kicked
pull-hook into a pond, leading to a quadruple bogey.
Ochoa committed to a two-year plan with Alarc�n to shorten and tighten her
swing. She also redoubled her punishing work in the gym. This made her swing
more efficient and reliable without diminishing her trademark athleticism and
rhythm. "What I love about Lorena's swing now," says Judy Rankin, a
Hall of Fame player and one of the game's most astute announcers, "is that
it is uniquely hers, unlike [those of] so many other young players who seem
burdened by trying to make someone else's idea of a perfect swing. They are
bogged down by mechanics, [but] Lorena simply hits the ball."
And how. At a
willowy 5'6" and 130 pounds, Ochoa has emerged as pound-for-pound the
longest hitter in the game. This season she is second on the LPGA tour in
driving distance, averaging 271 yards, and the woman ahead of her, by .6 of a
yard, is Sophie Gustafson, a powerfully built 5'10". Says Kim, "That
someone can be so creative around the greens and play shots that no one else
could even fathom, and then be a great iron player and now [be] 10 yards longer
than everybody else? And wear a size zero? It's just not right."