MORELIA, Mexico (AP) — Lorena Ochoa qualified for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame on Sunday, winning the Corona Championship by 11 strokes for her third straight victory and fourth in five starts this year.
The Mexican star became the second-youngest player to qualify for the Hall of Fame, though she still must me a tour member for 10 years — in her case, until 2012 — to be eligible for induction.
The LPGA Tour had previously said incorrectly that Ochoa would be the youngest to qualify at 26 years, 4 months, 29 days. But the youngest was actually Karrie Webb, who was 25 years, 7 months, 2 days when she qualified with a win at the 2000 U.S. Women’s Open.
The LPGA Tour awards one point for every victory and major award and two points for a major victory.
After opening with three straight 7-under 66s, Ochoa closed with a 69 for a 25-under 267 total. She earned $195,000 for her 21st victory on the LPGA Tour.
It also was her second win in three years on the rugged Tres Marias course, a par-73 layout carved into a mountain valley in western Mexico.
Ochoa had a seven-stroke lead entering play Sunday. She birdied the first, sixth and eighth holes, but dropped three strokes with a triple bogey on the 11th hole. She came back with birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th holes. Her birdie on the 18th hole prompted deafening shouts and whistles from the thousands who crowded around the green.
Ochoa celebrated her victory by raising a Mexican flag over her head. As fans and media crowded around her, she was sprayed with several bottles of champagne.
She described her four days of play as among her best. She only had one bogey, the 14th hole, on Thursday.
South Korea’s Song-Hee Kim (72) was second at 14 under.
Ochoa drew huge crowds that lined each hole she played Sunday. By the time she reached her second green, fans were already chanting her name in unison, filling the sunscorched valley with shouts of “Lorena! Lorena! Lorena!”
Ochoa has brought thousands of players to the game in Mexico, where it was traditionally played mostly by super rich Mexican men and vacationing foreigners.
Those who followed her play this weekend showed that her success translates across age, gender and even economic lines. She was trailed by small children carrying plastic golf clubs and women in three-inch high heels and matching designer handbags. Even course employees collecting trash would pause and watch in awe as she passed.
Monica Garcia, 30, and her husband, Luis Ortiz, were among the crowd and described themselves as “Lorena fanatics.” They bring their two children to watch her play each year at Tres Marias.
“She’s a role model for all Mexicans,” Ortiz said.
“And even more so for women,” added Garcia, her family’s only golf player. “She makes you believe you can do anything you want and be the best at it.”