Ochoa finally gets a club endorsement

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (AP) — Lorena Ochoa might have been the only No. 1 player in golf without an equipment deal, although it was not as simple as signing on the dotted line.

The Mexican star already had endorsement deals that occupied the front of her hat (Banamex), her golf bag (Aeromexico) and her shirt (LaCoste), three of the best billboards for a golfer. Ping still managed to work out a deal Tuesday.

Ochoa, who has been playing Ping equipment for the last 10 years, finally will get paid to use it under a multiyear agreement that varies slightly from most Ping contracts. Terms were not disclosed.

Ping usually gets its logo on the hat and the bag. In this case, Aeromexico remains the dominant logo on the golf bag, with seven Ping logos built around it.

"This is different for us," said Chance Cozby, director of tour operations for Ping. "We're at a point where we can use her in our marketing message, and she had a lot of global exposure. We had to go outside the box to create a unique deal."

Ping requires its staff players to use at least 11 clubs, with the driver and putter mandatory. The Phoenix-based company will give Ochoa whatever time she needs to find the right putter. The rest of the equipment already was in place.

"They've been really loyal to me. I've been loyal to them," Ochoa said. "Every time I got to Ping in the offseason, they always take care of me. If there's some company that I'd like to represent, it would be them."

The deal took root in April at the Golf Writers Association of America annual dinner, where Ochoa was honored as female player of the year. John Solheim, chairman and CEO of Ping, was in the audience that night and was moved by Ochoa's classy acceptance speech.

"He came back to the house and said, 'Let's get moving on this,'" Cozby said.

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GOING TO THE DOGS: The final major on the LPGA Tour might be the biggest of the year. For the first time, the Women's British Open will be held on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the home of golf.

Along with playing the historic links where Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods each hoisted the claret jug, the women will be allowed in the Royal & Ancient clubhouse, which had been off limits.

"It's something everyone has been talking about for the last year, trying to get accommodations," Karrie Webb said. "`You never plan that far in advance for any tournament. I don't think there will be anyone who has a bad time that week."

Annika Sorenstam played the Old Course as an amateur, and called it a "big step for women's golf," especially considering the sign she recalls seeing at the amateur event.

"There was a sign out there that said, 'No dogs or women allowed,'" she said. "Hopefully, they'll take it out for the week. I think it's going to be great for women, for us to go play there. I'm looking forward to that."

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BACK IN TIME: Karrie Webb won by eight shots the last time the U.S. Women's Open was held at Pine Needles, a performance so inspiring that she recently watched it on videotape.

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