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Today, at age 65, she has an old-school mindset when it comes to the tour and the organisation that her predecessors, notably the Founders, gave birth to 72 years ago. Their establishment of the LPGA enabled golf to become the premier women’s sports organisation in the world.
Nancy believes that today’s players should have that same mindset and respect for those who came before them.
“It’s very important because they’re the players who did all the hard work for me,” she said, “and hopefully, what I did, passed the baton over to the next generation of golfers.”
“It was so much fun to sit down with them and hear them tell stories. I hope that we have kept enough of that in the archives, listening to their stories and listening to what they said. Just wanting to see women’s golf become successful was always something they wanted to happen.”
“When I was on tour, that was the environment I was in and the energy I felt.”
Looking back on her career, Lopez treasures her interactions with the Founders and those who came immediately after them.
“They were just always nice,” she said. “They were nice to me. They were supportive. I think they knew that we had to carry the baton for the next generation, and when they say ‘leave the tour better than you found it,’ that’s so important.
Lopez won 48 LPGA tournaments during her LPGA career, including three LPGA Championships, known as today’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
She is renowned for her accomplishments and how she achieved them. Lopez’s fan-friendly demeanor and charismatic on-course persona attracted legions of new fans to women’s golf. She cites the importance of today’s players maintaining a professional attitude regardless of the numbers on their scorecards.
“I hope this next generation of players realises it’s important for them to do that,” she said, “and, for the next girls who come along, to be grateful and great champions, and to be good losers too. That’s important. They’re not always going to play great golf but it’s important to behave respectfully and show that they are professionals and that they care.”
Lopez’s on-course success came with a tradeoff; the responsibility of being ‘The Face of the LPGA Tour.’ It was a responsibility she took seriously even on days when she didn’t want to. Regardless, she did an abundance of interviews and appearances to promote her sport.
“There were days I was kicking dirt. I just didn’t want to do anything,” she recalls, “but I never let anybody know that when I went to events. I did the best job I could to promote my tour because it was important. I felt that if they needed me there, then I needed to my best and I always felt like I did my best job in the end.
I always wanted to be good to people and I’ve always enjoyed being around people, so it wasn’t too hard to do that. I just knew that I had to ‘carry the tour’ on my shoulders when they asked me to do stuff. It was important for me to do that.”
Hometown: Torrance, California, USA
Year of Hall of Fame Induction: 1987
Total LPGA Tour Wins: 48
Major Championships: 3 (was the winner of the KPMG Women’s Open twice)
LPGA Tour Awards: 1978 Rookie of the Year, 4 x Rolex Player of the Year (1978, 1979, 1985, 1988), 3x Vare Trophy recipient (1978, 1979, 1985)
Nancy was a member of the 1990 U.S. Solheim Cup Team and captained the 2005 winning team.
Amateur Highlights: Lopez was only 12 when she won the New Mexico Women’s Amateur, and in the following years, she won the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship twice (1972, 1974)
Words by Rick Woelfel