‘Best decision of my life’: Why Lorena Ochoa has no regrets about retiring as world No. 1

Lorena Ochoa won 27 times during her LPGA career.

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Too often in sports, legends just can’t quit.

That wasn’t the case for Lorena Ochoa.

Ochoa walked away from the game at both her peak and the peak. She was the No. 1 player in the world. She’d won 10 tournaments over the previous two years. She was only 30 years old. But on that emotional April day in 2010 when she announced her decision, Ochoa knew she was done.

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“This is the way I dreamed it,” she said at the time. “I’m ready to start a new life. You know, I just want to be a normal person. I just want to live like everyday things and be home, and be back with my family all the time that we lost in the last few years. I’m ready to move on.”

Her soul wasn’t in it anymore. After nearly a decade traversing the globe from tournament to tournament, Ochoa was ready to settle down. She wanted to spend time with her family, and she wanted to focus on her charitable foundation.

The decision was an admirable one — but it came at a cost: her place in the LPGA Hall of Fame.

The Hall had an eligibility requirement Ochoa didn’t meet. Players had to be LPGA Tour members for at least 10 years to be considered for induction. Ochoa had played for only seven.

Ochoa knew she was risking her spot when she announced her retirement.

“Hopefully I can be there,” she said. “It’s for sure a dream for me and something very important.”

This week, that dream became a reality.

The LPGA Tour announced on Tuesday a change in criteria scrapping the 10-year requirement. Ochoa is finally headed to the Hall. She graced Mission Hills with her presence on Wednesday to commemorate the occasion.

It was as much a homecoming as it was a celebration for the 40-year-old. Ochoa made it a point to say hello to every familiar face in the media. Old friends (and competitors) stopped in to give salutations, and plenty of new acquaintances rolled through in the hope of earning some face time.

Lorena Ochoa and Lizette Salas share a smile. Zephyr Melton

“I’m speechless right now,” Lizette Salas — the 23rd ranked player in the world — said as she hugged Ochoa.

Back in front of the press, Ochoa was comfortable as ever. Her answers were poised and thoughtful — sprinkled with her infectious laughter — and she seemed to linger in front of the mic. Her availability went well over time, and her interview transcript dwarfs any others from the week.

The biggest takeaway? She has no regrets.

“I could really tell that it was the right time to stop,” she said. “That’s why regardless [of] the rule, I said this is not going to change my mind because really what I felt in my heart was different, and I was ready to start a family.”

The 10 years Ochoa has been away from professional golf have provided a different kind of fulfillment. She started a family with her husband, Andre Conesa, and they now have two children. She’s also been able to focus her time on the Lorena Ochoa Golf Foundation, one of her proudest achievements.

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“I have other priorities,” Ochoa said. “It’s time to spend as much time with my kids and continue working with the foundation while I have the energy and strength.”

There were things she missed being away from the tour. The competition. The camaraderie. The relationships.

But in the meantime, she found something even more valuable. Purpose.

“It turned out to be the best decision of my life,” Ochoa said. “I wouldn’t change myself for anything — the opportunity to have a family and my kids and the foundation.”

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Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.