LPGA Hall of Famers tee off in Yangyang

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LPGA Hall of Famers tee off in Yangyang


From left: Lorena Ochoa of Mexico and Juli Inkster of the United States hit their drives at the Seolhaeone Cell Return Legends Match at Seolhaeone Resort in Yangyang, Gangwon, on Saturday. [NEWS1]

At 59 years old and 13 years removed from her last LPGA title, American legend Juli Inkster knows her best days are behind her.

And she’s perfectly fine with it.

Inkster joined other World Golf Hall of Famers, Pak Se-ri, Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, at an exhibition golf event called the Seolhaeone Cell Return Legends Match in Yangyang, Gangwon, over the weekend. Inkster teamed up with Australia’s Minjee Lee in the foursome competition Saturday and shot a 4-over 76 to finish third among four teams.

Inkster is the oldest of the four members of the “LPGA Legends” team, but she’s also the only active player. The 1984 LPGA Rookie of the Year hasn’t officially retired.

Inkster had her ups and downs Saturday, which was to be expected of a golfer who doesn’t compete as much as before. After her round, Inkster said she was at complete peace with the state of her game.

“As you get older, your body doesn’t move like it used to, and there are other things going on in your life beside golf,” said Inkster, who famously juggled raising two daughters and capturing 31 LPGA titles, including seven majors.

“You have other activities and other things like kids, but it’s fine,” Inkster added. “Things change. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.”

Then referring to Pak, Sorenstam and Ochoa, all retired, Inkster said, “We still all love the game. We don’t play as well as we used to, but I think all four of us are okay with that.”

Inkster, who has captained the U.S. at each of the past three Solheim Cups, said she hopes to leave her mark on golf in different ways than just winning tournaments.

“The generation before me left the game in such a great place so I was able to make a living and do what I loved to do,” she said. “I think it’s all our job to leave it in a better place for these (young) ladies to play great golf and make a living.”

In addition to Inkster, another legend, Ochoa, hopes to help develop golf in Mexico, rather than returning to the Tour.

Ochoa is the ultimate case of “what could have been” in women’s golf, having retired from the LPGA Tour in 2010 at the peak of her powers and left behind the tantalizing promise of so much more.

But the 37-year-old Mexican legend isn’t one to dwell on the past. Before taking part in an exhibition match with fellow LPGA legends and current stars, Ochoa said a return to competitive golf isn’t in her plans.

“I am not coming back. That’s for sure,” Ochoa said at a press conference Saturday ahead of the Seolhaeone Cell Return Legends Match.

In the mid- to late-2000s, no one in the LPGA was better than Ochoa at the top of her game. Ochoa had spent 158 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the world rankings when she retired in May 2010.

Ochoa won 27 titles, including two majors, and 24 of those 27 came in a dominant four-year stretch from 2006 to 2009.

She was the LPGA Player of the Year and scoring champion in all four of those seasons, while leading the tour in money in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2007, Ochoa became the first LPGA player to earn more than $4 million in a season. That record hasn’t been touched, even in this day and age of increased purses.

At the time of her retirement, Ochoa said she no longer wanted to grind it out as a touring pro. She hasn’t changed her mind since. Ochoa said if she were to play golf again, it should be her top priority and she wants to give it her 100 percent. Ochoa doesn’t feel she’s up for that.

“It’s very difficult, all the practices you have to do, traveling around the world and sacrifices,” she said. “Now, I am at a different stage in my life. I enjoy being with my kids very much.”

Ochoa said she still has an active lifestyle, and she keeps herself busy working with young golfers in her native Mexico.

“I do everything that’s in my power to help golf in Mexico,” she said. “I think it’s something I love to do, to share as much as I can and hopefully to inspire new generations. It’s nice to see young players play. It’s their time.”

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