Lessons from Lorena

Vol. 14 No. 06: June 1, 2010

Lessons from Lorena

By Sally C. Pipes, President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute
As Contrarian readers know from my 2008 column on Billy Jean King, my game is tennis, not golf. I greatly admire, however, those who achieve success in that difficult sport, and one truly great golfer even illustrates some of the themes we pursue in this column. I refer to Lorena Ochoa, who has recently retired at the age of 28 as the number-one player in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

Lorena has held the number-one ranking for the last four years and won Player of the Year in 2009, her fourth such honor. Since turning professional in 2002, she won 27 LPGA events, including two major tournaments, the Women’s British Open, at the tough St. Andrews course in Scotland, and the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Lorena was the first woman to win $4,000,000 in a single season (2007), smashing the previous record of $2,863,904 held by Annika Sorenstam, whom she surpassed as the dominant player in women’s golf.

Lorena accomplished all this in fine style, and without any Tiger Woods-style embarrassments. With such a spectacular record and seven-figure income, and at the very peak of her powers, why did she choose to retire?

“I am leaving the LPGA tour as the top player, so I am proud of myself and satisfied,” Lorena told the press. She recently married and told her friends she wants to put family first and become more active with her charitable foundation in Mexico. “Life is too short,” she said.

Lorena Ochoa was the first Mexican-born player to win on the LPGA tour, but her career owes nothing to any affirmative-action program. On the tour, wins count, not ethnicity. Neither is her success due to Title IX, the federal gender-gap measure. She achieved number-one status through talent, hard work, and dedication, not any favoritism or quota system. Unlike the punitive effect of Title IX, men’s professional golf did not have to be cut back to make way for her.

Lorena’s success is inspiring but her decision to retire from golf is also instructive. As we have noted in past columns, many smart and successful women in business and academia make similar decisions to step away from the workplace and devote more time to family. Like many successful women, Lorena Ochoa appears to have rather different priorities than militant feminists. The number-one golfer does not believe that dedication to family and charitable foundations makes her a second-class citizen.

In her new pursuits, away from the LPGA tour, Lorena’s income will surely drop, as would the income of a top-level female attorney who makes a decision to step away from the office for reasons of her own choosing. Neither case will be the result of any gender discrimination, or the “pay gap” so beloved and often cited by feminists. It will be the result of a decision Lorena made on her own, based on her own priorities. Her choice calls for no action on the part of the federal government. Some day, she may make a different decision.

“I’m going to leave the door open,” she told reporters, “in case I want to come back in one or two years to play a U.S. Open or a Kraft Nabisco.”

I hope Lorena does come back some day, but if not, that is fine with me. She inspires me to play more tennis, but I simply don’t have the time. As we noted last month, militants are trying to impose Title IX on science, engineering, and math departments. Worse, the federal government is on a path to take over our health care. Under those conditions, it is not wise for me to retire.

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Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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