Nancy Lopez

by Mike Magers

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LPGA golfer Nancy Lopez’s name is very familiar to golf fans of a certain age, because she was so dominant in the sport during her active career. She was born in Torrence, California and raised in Roswell (Chavez County), New Mexico where her father owned an auto repair business and her mother was a homemaker.

Nancy began to play golf at the age of 8 using old clubs with shafts that had been shortened for her.  Coached at first by her father, she won a Pee-Wee tournament at the age of 9 and by the age of 11 was beating her parents on the golf course.  Domingo, her father, dug a big hole in her back yard and filled it with sand so she could practice hitting balls out of a sand trap.  The following three years, she won the USGA Junior Girls Championshp (1974 and 1975), the Western Junior three times and the Mexican Amateur in 1975.

Nationally ranked as an amateur in high school, Nancy led her otherwise all male high school golf team to win a New Mexico State Championship, Goddard High having no girls team. She notched championships in 1972 and 1974 in the U. S. Girls Junior Championship and gained national notice when she tied for second in the U. S. Women’s Open in 1975. Following graduation from Goddard High School, she attended Tulsa University for two years during which time she won the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women golf championship her freshman year and and won the university’s Female Athlete of the Year her sophomore year.

Nancy turned pro in 1977, though1978 was her official rookie season on the LPGA Tour. 1978 was a stellar year for her as she won 9 tournaments, including a stretch of 5 in a row. She also won the Vare Trophy given annually for lowest scoring average, LPGA Rookie of the year, LPGA Player of the Year and was named the AP Female Athlete of the Year. She played shortened tours in years in which her three children were born, but eventually notched 48 career LPGA wins and 4 other wins in the Kraft Nabisco Championship and du Maurier Classic. Lopez retired from the tour in 2003, briefly unretired in 2007, but will always be remembered as one of the brightest stars in LPGA Golf.

Nancy feels that she experienced discrimination at times during her upbringing. It has been written that her family could not join the local country club because of race, notwithstanding the cost, and she trained at a country club in Albuquerque, 200 miles away. However, as a result of her success against the odds, she is seen as a strong role model for women and Hispanics.

Nancy is an LPGA representative for the Bayer “Strokes Against Strokes” campaign, supported by the Senior Tour and the American Hart Association. Roswell ISD has named an elementary school in her honor. Nancy currently is associated with Nancy Lopez Golf, a company that markets ladies golf clubs, bags and accessories and sometimes also does television commentary.

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