AUGUSTA, Ga. – Maria Fassi was 8 years old when she first met her idol, Mexican golf superstar Lorena Ochoa.
That day, Ochoa traveled to Fassi’s hometown of Pachucha, Mexico, and surprised a young Fassi with a round of golf. The two have since formed a close relationship, with Fassi leaning on Ochoa for advice as she’s climbed the ranks of women’s amateur golf.
“Lorena is the reason I started playing golf,” Fassi said.
Which is why Saturday’s moment behind the 18th green at Augusta National was so special.
After years of Fassi watching Ochoa, the roles were reversed with Ochoa walking in Fassi’s gallery as the 21-year-old Arkansas standout battled Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho in the final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. After Fassi ultimately fell short of Kupcho despite a closing 2-under 70, it was Ochoa waiting, with tears in her eyes, to greet Fassi with a big hug.
“I’m so proud of you,” Ochoa told Fassi.
“She was about to cry, and she said, ‘Hey, I’m so proud of you,’ and [was] telling me about how much fun she had out there and how much fun it was to watch me play,” Fassi said. “She said, ‘Keep your chin up because you’ve got a long way ahead. Just shake it off and enjoy just being out here.’”
Added Fassi: “I’m really happy that I got to share that [moment] with her.”
Full-field scores from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur
All week, Fassi produced eye-popping drives and exciting birdies. In the final round, she birdied both first-nine par 5s and led by two shots after a clutch up-and-down par at the par-3 12th. But she also displayed an impressive show of sportsmanship. She thanked nearly every volunteer, she took time to interact with her young fans and most noticeably she cheered on her opponents, especially Kupcho, who gave Fassi plenty reason to fist pump and high-five on Saturday.
Ochoa sees a lot of herself in Fassi, who is an aggressive and powerful player with an emotional flair unmatched by her peers. To say Ochoa is proud of Fassi, who will finish out her college career this spring before jumping straight to the LPGA, is an understatement.
“She’s a very strong player, but at the same time, you can tell that, you know, she is relaxed and she enjoys [it],” Ochoa said. “She smiles and she’s learning and she feels very grateful to be here. … She’s done everything it takes to be a good player. She’s very serious about her practice routine.
“I can’t wait to see what the future [holds] for her.”