A Golf in the SouthWest Feature ...
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.
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."
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