U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Fierro Following in Footsteps of Countrywoman, Idol Ochoa
August 11, 2017 | CHULA VISTA, Calif.
By Joey Flyntz, USGA
An appreciator of Mexican golf history, 16-year-old Isabella Fierro is already creating significant space for her own accomplishments in the annals of her home country’s impact on the game.
Just this year, Fierro has won the South American Women’s Amateur Championship – by 10 strokes – and the Women’s North & South Amateur Championship on Pinehurst Resort and Country Club’s Course No. 2, the first Mexican champion in that prestigious event. With two victories in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship Thursday at San Diego Country Club, she earned her place in Friday’s quarterfinals, three wins away from making more history. Only one Mexican-born golfer has won a USGA championship: Mina Hardin in the 2010 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
“Oh my gosh, winning this is just like a major for the amateur level, and winning this, it gets me in [major championships], and that's my dream as an amateur [to play with LPGA Tour players],” Fierro said after her Round-of-16 win against Haley Moore. “It would give me a lot of confidence, and I mean, I don't have the words to explain how I feel.”
Fierro, who was born in Merida, Yucatan, in south Mexico, has her sights set on an LPGA Tour career. If that is the future she wants to secure for herself, she certainly has the right people in her corner. Fierro shares a coach with 27-time LPGA Tour winner and two-time major champion Lorena Ochoa, a World Golf Hall of Fame member whom Fierro idolizes.
If you’re looking for signs in the stars, it was here in San Diego where Fierro met Rafael Alarcon, Ochoa’s longtime coach. Playing in the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships nine years ago, Fierro spotted him watching her from behind a green trying to be conspicuous with his sunglasses covering his eyes.
“I knew who he was, and I was like: ‘Dad, come on, this is Rafael Alarcon. I want to talk to him,’ and he was like, no. And then Rafael and my dad started talking, and we had a connection at the time, and yeah, it's working right now.”
Working it is, indeed. Fierro shot 5-over 149 to finish one stroke inside the match-play cutline. She defeated 12-year-old wunderkind Alexa Pano in the Round of 64, 4 and 3, then outlasted 2016 Women’s Amateur semifinalist Yuka Saso, 1 up, in the Round of 32 before beating Moore, a college standout at the University of Arizona, in the Round of 16.
Fierro notched another significant milestone in American sports lore this week. She appears in this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, appearing in the long-running “Faces in the Crowd” section that highlights amateur athletes from around the country.
Asked about her thoughts on appearing in the small but prestigious slice of sports Americana, Fierro was completely unaware, both of the existence of “Faces in the Crowd,” and her place in it. “Oh, that’s nice,” she responded when the history of the section was explained to her.
Ochoa is often on Fierro’s mind, and the two text each other regularly. Through social media, Ochoa keeps tabs on Fierro’s progress and shared a congratulatory tweet following Fierro’s win in the North & South, which translates to: “Congratulations to the winner of the North & South Amateur Championship. It makes me proud to see how you have grown and to hear about your victories.”
Fierro, who has verbally committed to play at Oklahoma State University beginning in the fall of 2019, never missed an opportunity to watch Ochoa on TV. She took notice of Ochoa’s relentlessly positive attitude – both toward fellow players, spectators and course workers – and took it to heart.
“I never missed a tournament when she was playing, and what I admired of her was she was all the time with a smile,” said Fierro. “She was really, really happy all the time. I don't know if when she missed a shot, but she was really happy, and she treated other people – for example, the volunteers and everyone – so well that you feel like you will remember those kinds of players, not the ones that are like angry and just like moody, you know. So I mean, that's what I remember more about her.”
Fierro has taken Ochoa’s lead in that regard and multiplied it exponentially. Whether you have followed her in the gallery at San Diego Country Club, watched her on TV or looked at photos of her from the week online, Fierro has an infectious energy. Her celebrations are excitable and her wide smile is transfixing. She is very self-aware when it comes to her excitability.
“Yeah, I'm Mexican, and I think Latinos in general, we're like that,” said Fierro, who lived 14 years in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. “We're really emotional, and I say a couple putts, ‘vamos,’ that is ‘come on’ in Spanish, and I like to enjoy every single shot. I've always been that way.”
Whether she wins the U.S. Women’s Amateur on Sunday or gets eliminated Friday or Saturday, you can rest assured Fierro’s fiery passion will endure.
Maybe in Sports Illustrated.
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.