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Going Too Soon

Like Bobby Jones, Lorena Ochoa is exiting the game at 28 and on top

It's not often that a Hall of Fame--qualified athlete's playing record can be called "O.K." in relation to her off-the-field impact, but that's the case with Lorena Ochoa. Whether it was furthering the education of poor children through the schools she opened in Mexico, speaking up for the Mexican tourism industry when it was obliterated by the swine flu epidemic, donating large sums of money to the Tabasco region when it was devastated by flooding, making breakfast for the grounds crews at so many LPGA sites, or simply waving to her fans, Ochoa made lives better everywhere she went.

She also made business better for women's golf. In her time on tour the LPGA experimented with four new events in Mexico, three of which remain on the schedule. Her namesake tournament in Guadalajara, on the course where she grew up, will prosper, especially since she'll continue to play annually. I do worry, however, for the future of the two other Mexican events. Losing them would be a minidisaster for the LPGA.

What would be even more disastrous is if the LPGA does not relax its archaic Hall of Fame criteria, particularly the one that requires 10 years of active membership. Ochoa collected her 27 wins and two majors in only seven years, which is even more impressive in my mind.

Will it make a difference to her? Not a bit. But if she's not counted among the game's greats, it would be a black eye for golf. Simply put, as she has done for so many throughout her career and will continue to do in her retirement, Lorena will make the Hall of Fame better for her association with it.



SINKING FEELING Ochoa dropped to No. 2 in the rankings after finishing sixth last week.