With her birthday just last week, Cristina Ochoa finished her 16th trip around the sun in winning fashion. The Colombian took charge in her first-ever ANNIKA Invitational Latin America, leading throughout the entire tournament. Argentine Ela Anacona had a low round on the final day to force a playoff with Cristina, but Ochoa managed to take home the victory on the third hole of the sudden-death playoff. The Bogota native began playing golf at the age of five and has big plans for what’s ahead in her golf career and life after high school.
We spoke with Cristina after her win in Argentina.
What is one place that you want to go that you have never been before?
I would love to go to Africa.
Who is your favorite golfer?
I have many favorites but probably Phil Mickelson.
What is one thing that surprises people about you?
My constant level of energy and happiness, even during bad moments, and how proactive I am and how I manage to organize my time to do many things. In terms of golf, my putting and my ability to work shots (draw, slice, low and high trajectories, etc.)
Congratulations on your recent win at the ANNIKA Invitational Latin America. Tell us about your feelings heading into the final round after leading the first two rounds. How did you stay calm and focused in the playoff?
Thank you. I felt calm at the start of the day, but more nervous when I started to miss some fairways and some greens. But mostly I was really happy to be there and accomplish what I had accomplished. My emotions changed a bit heading into the playoff because I had never played in one before, but I think I kept my calm by following the same routine as if I was playing on a normal day. I believe in visualizing every shot, as Annika said in the clinic the day before, and it really helped me to keep my rhythm even though my heart was pumping really fast. I focused only on my game.
What do you have planned after your graduate?
I want to go to a great university in the U.S., and keep playing good golf while studying something I feel passionate about.
Is fitness a big part of your training and practice throughout the season? If so, what do you focus on the most to help improve your game?
Because of my height, I have to complement my swing with a lot of strength so I don't stay behind or have a disadvantage. I think fitness has helped a lot with this, and that is now another thing that surprises people – how hard I hit the ball being such a small person. To do this, I work a lot on stability, so I work on the lower part of my body and a lot of exercises for transferring my body weight.
How do you spend your free time outside of golf?
I study at a school which gives me lots of choices and opportunities for different activities, so I try to manage my time to get into as much of those as I can. I am part of my school’s soccer team, and I take time to be with my friends and family as much as possible. I also like to give, so I believe in the importance of social work, even more in my country where I am very privileged and others do require help.. But mostly, I really try to have a good balance between my golf and my academics, which I really enjoy.
Who is your biggest role model and why?
My mum because she inspires me with love, happiness and greatness.
What is your favorite golf tournament you have played in so far and why?
I think the ANNIKA invitational because I think it was a great balance between golf and socializing. I learned a lot, not only about myself, but from others, too, and Annika, of course. I also met a lot of new people which I think is the most important part of the game. I had never been in a tournament in which I felt almost like a pro, with the cameras, the leaderboards, the perfect state of the course and such a great field of players, so I think this one was my favorite because it was a totally new experience. Besides, I had never been to Argentina and it fulfilled every big expectation I had of it.
How/Why did you start playing golf?
Golf runs in my family. My grandpa has played golf all his life and my parents play golf, too. But I really started because my brother invited me. I won the first tournament I played so I got really motivated.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Something that I apply both in my game and my life is to think about what’s happening and not what happened or what will happen – living in the present, shot by shot, moment by moment.
What is one thing that you can’t live without?
The affection and closeness of my family and their constant support.
When you are practicing on your own, how long does a typical practice last? What are your focal points?
It depends mostly on the upcoming events and on my mood. But it takes around one hour when I practice my long shots, and about two hours when I practice my approaches and putting. I have two kinds of practice, one is a more serious practice in which I focus a lot on my thinking, trying to visualize and execute the shot exactly how I see it in my mind. My other kind of practice is when I try to focus on not being monotonous – what I call “random practice” -- and is the one I like the most, because I can practice my favorite kind of shots, the weird ones, like my slice, my draw, and my low and high shots, I am known for.
What would you say is your favorite part about playing golf?
Meeting people from all around the world, getting to know myself in many kinds of situations (because I see many parallels in golf and life) and learning about myself a little bit from every round. But I think my very favorite part is getting the satisfaction of achieving my goals, and seeing that my effort achieves many things, including winning off the course.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring female golfers who are just starting to play the game?
Enjoy the game to its fullest; you will learn so much from it. Also, obstacles should be seen as a challenge and not as a frustration.
Already looking ahead to the new year, Cristina has three main goals in mind: 1. Find a great university for both golf and academics, 2. Keep excelling in academics and golf in order to achieve goal number one and 3. Take advantage of her younger years, by staying active and involved and getting as much done possible, whether it be learning a new language or how to play an instrument. When asked if golf has taught her any life lessons, Cristina shared, “Bigger things come with bigger efforts and a good attitude trumps all kinds of different emotions and situations.” It seems that everyone can take a page out of Cristina Ochoa’s book. We look forward to watching her continued success in 2019 and want to thank her for being November’s Featured Player.