April 24, 2003
STOCKBRIDGE, Ga.--Former Wildcat Lorena Ochoa, one of the greatest players in the history of collegiate golf and a virtual sports icon in her native Mexico, has been selected as the recipient of the fourth annual Nancy Lopez Award. Named after one of the greatest and most respected women's golfers in history, the award is presented annually to the world's most outstanding female amateur.
The inaugural winner was Kellee Booth, who is now an LPGA Tour professional. In 2001, Aree Wongluekiet (now Aree Song) captured the award. And last year the winner was Meredith Duncan.
The award is a key facet of the relationship between Nancy Lopez and the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez. As the event's official host, Lopez will present the award to Ochoa at a gala banquet to be held Thursday night of tournament week. Along with the award comes a sponsor invitation to compete in the tournament. Since Ochoa is now an LPGA Tour member, her sponsor exemption was given to Michelle Wie. In addition, the tournament is donating $1,000 in Ochoa's name to La Barranca in Guadalajara and AIM for the Handicapped.
The talented native of Guadalajara, Mexico enjoyed perhaps the greatest collegiate career of any women (or man) in history. During her two years at the University of Arizona, she competed in 20 college tournaments, winning 12, finishing 2nd six times, 3rd once and 9th once. During her second year, she won eight of 10 including seven in a row and placed 2nd in the other two. She set an NCAA scoring record of 71.33 during her freshman year and then shattered that mark by more than a full stroke in her sophomore campaign (70.13). She was named NCAA player of the year in both of her two seasons.
In her own country she was a seven-time Mexican Junior Champion and a three-time Mexican Amateur Champion. She represented Mexico in many world amateur events and in 2001 she received the Premio Nacional del Deporte Award, the country's highest athletic award. She was the youngest recipient ever and the first golfer.
Prior to turning professional last May she competed in five LPGA Tour events as an amateur, finishing in the top 10 in three of them. At the 2002 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first LPGA major of the year, she finished 8th.
"I am very proud to win this award both for myself and my country. It is a very special honor to receive an award from Nancy Lopez because I have followed her footsteps since I was little," said Ochoa. "Nancy has always been very kind to me and helped and encouraged me over the last few years."
Ochoa was selected from a list of 12 extraordinarily talented and distinguished international candidates. The Nancy Lopez Award Executive Committee selected approximately 60 international golf industry experts who compiled the list of candidates. The committee members and industry experts participated in the voting.
"Having my name associated with this prestigious award and with the tournament is a huge honor for me and a career highlight," Lopez said. "I have wonderful memories of competing in college and amateur golf. Lorena may be the greatest collegiate player ever and, I'm sure, will enjoy a long and successful career in this great game."
Now in its 12th year, the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez has been played each year at Eagle's Landing Country Club in Stockbridge, Georgia.