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"Awesome Albert"

TCU golfer Albert Ochoa is close to being the best college golfer in the nation. And he's only a sophomore.

by David Van Meter
Golf in the SouthWest

Albert Ochoa learned the game of golf from his father, Alberto Sr.

Not the mechanics, mind you, but the manners. No outbursts. No wrapping your 4-iron around the nearest live oak. No showboating. Composure always.

So when the freckled, sunburnt Ochoa grins about his game -- despite having three tests to make up because of the week-long Taylor Made Big Island Invitational in Hawaii -- he must have a good reason.

Perhaps it is his individual ranking, No. 2 in the nation.

Nope.

Well, then it's probably the fact that Ochoa has finished in the top 10 in his last five tournaments, contributing greatly to the No. 3 team ranking the Frogs held at press time.

Certainly, TCU Golf Coach Bill Montigel thinks so. "Albert is a combination of everything a coach would dream of," he said. "If he keeps doing what he's doing, I just can't imagine him not being an all-time great college players as well as a pro player."

But that's not quite it, either.

Nor is it that Ochoa, in the Rolex Intercollegiate Match-Play tournament in October, defeated Florida's Steve Scott, the U.S. Amateur finalist who lost to Tiger Woods. Ochoa also defeated Keith Nolan of East Tennessee State, who at the time, was the No. 1-ranked player in the Rolex rankings. Golf in the SouthWest

Ochoa's smile--modest, more of a serious half-grin like Troy Aikman's--is what remains of a golf game you probably didn't hear much about. After TCU's sixth-place finish in the Big Island Invitational, Ochoa went home to Edinburgh to help inaugurate an 18-hole course in a neighboring town. Playing with him were his golf coach and best friend, Jaime Gomez, and 1995 PGA Champion Steve Elkington.

Ochoa beat them both. Four birdies and only one bogey. Of course, Ochoa knows that both might very well beat him today. That's how golf is, after all. But the fact is, he did win, in front of more than a few TV cameras and a pretty good crowd, too.

In short, the smile means Ochoa is coming ever closer to hitting the PGA green he's been aiming at since he was 8 years old.

TCU Golfer
Alberto Ochoa
Golf in the SouthWest

Ochoa could clobber the ball, even back then. Alberto Sr. scratched his head the first time he saw his untrained son put one down the middle of the fairway. At age 12, Ochoa dropped baseball and football--the guy's got some chunky arms still--to concentrate on golf.

During his junior play years, Ochoa was scoring in the 80s until Jaime Gomez, then a University of Houston player, came up behind him for the first time and adjusted his swing.

"Within a year, Jaime helped me take 10 shots off my average," Ochoa said. "He's been like a brother to me ever since."

And the greatest lesson Gomez gave Ochoa was the value of simplicity. Ask him the secret of his consistent success and you might be disappointed. There are no special putters, no special prayers before each drive.

"I have as simple a swing as possible," he said. "I make sure I'm looking fairly straight down the fairway, then I just take the club back and hit the ball." Of course, Ochoa does think before that moment, especially about his set-up. Grip, posture and alignment are his three biggest variables.

"And I practice a lot," Ochoa said, "but the key to this game is just to hit it fairly straight and get to the green as fast as possible. Thatís all I try to do."

And by the looks of that grin, Ochoa has been pretty successful. Golf in the SouthWest Special guest editor David Van Meter is the Associate Editor of the TCU Magazine
(Feb. 28, 1997)© Golf in the SouthWest

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