Interview by Jason Bruno
Nancy Lopez at the Grand Opening of the new Max A Mandel Course in Laredo, Texas.
Over 40 years since winning her first USGA Title (the 1972 U.S Girls' Junior), Nancy Lopez is still
the straw that stirs the drink. When she walks into a room, you feel her energy and warmth . . .
she is the Arnold Palmer of Ladies Golf. At the recent Max A Mandel course opening in Laredo,
Texas, Lopez was the guest of honor, and everyone from politicians to small children fell hard
for the lady who once ruled Womens' Golf. I considered myself fortunate to have the opportunity
to interview the Hall Of Famer (who won 48 LPGA tournaments & 3 Major Championships) .
LinksNation: When you were growing up what were some of your thoughts when practicing?
Nancy Lopez: The thing about me when I was on the practice tee growing up, I learned what
my hands were doing when I hit a shot. I taught myself alot of that, my Dad was my teacher
but he wasn't an instructor. I learned to work the ball different ways . . . I was a big feel player,
so if I felt something and I saw it, I said wow that's what's making the ball do this for this reason.
I taught myself all of these different shots, and it was because I was on the driving range doing
that and having a good time doing it.
LN: The golf industry as a whole talks about bringing in more juniors, bringing in morewomen,
making the game more accessible. How much of that in your experience is fact and how
much is lip service?
NL: I think it's more out there than you think with the LPGA and the USGA, we do this golf camp
and I think what we have to do is teach our kids to practice first, we want them to go out on the
golf course and know how to play the game. During the last two years we've done schools at Kiawah
Island, only girls . . . and I like it being only girls because women don't feel comfortable on the golf
course, they are very intimidated by "Am I good Enough", "Should I be out here", "The guys are behind
us, we don't want to be slow". At this girls golf camp it's 3 days, the older players are from 8-17 and
they have a little tournament, because they know the game a little bit better. The LPGA teaching division
donates their time, how many people do that? Lady Links for Golf (which is a new magazine), and I work
with them sometimes, and we do outings all over the country and we bring alot of women to golf. We
teach them the game so they feel confident enough to go play golf with the guys or on a golf course
period. I think it's important, we don't need lip service - we need to do things that are important to
help the game. I think the First Tee program has been tremendous, but still the little girls there are
probably intimidated because there are young men there that play and are probably better than they
are, but the First Tee has taught alot of kids and I've heard alot of testimonies fromchildren and
young adults that have gone through the First Tee program and learned alot from it, which is really
good. The big thing in golf to me is, it's just too expensive . . . with the economy the way it's been -
this is a municipal golf course, it doesn't look like one to me . . . it's really nice. We've got to give
people the opportunity to play the game, instead of charging so much money. Why not have a full golf
course and have special days or special weekends or bring your kid out and pay half price or something
where we can fill up the golf course. There are so many golf courses closing because they can't afford to
keep their doors open. I live in another world, I play all of those prestigious golf courses, but I don't forget
where I came from and I feel really lucky that I can go and play all of the courses that I've been able to
LN: The USGA has two different contrasting themes goin on: The talk of "rolling back" the golf ball because
it goes too far, and the Tee It Forward initiative. What's your take?
NL: I don't know, I don't think the ball goes that much farther for me right now. . . I'm teeing it forward
right now! I'm on that commitee of talking about teeing it forward. The equipment has done alot, but I'm
at the age where I am, I'm not as flexible as I used to be, I used to hit it 275 easily, now I'm swinging
hard and hitting it 230. Even with the equipment, I used to play 6500 (yards) now I just move up to
wherever I want to hit it. Wherever I can hit an 8 or 7 iron on par 4's, I've got to where I was hitting 4
hybrids and I got tired of doing that. I want to hit a green the way I used to, I hit all the par 4's with
wedges because I hit it so long, and now I'm not and it's aggravating. I'm not up to the ladies tee yet,
but I move up. I play with my boyfriend and I'll say, Ed I'm gonna move up to here,so I move up to
where I feel that I can play the course comfortably . . . I don't even play where there's tees. It's fun to
play like that, he hits it longer than I do and I just want to be able to enjoy the game and have birdie
putts and have that good sensation of hitting a green in two and getting it close, instead of hitting
a 4 hybrid and having a 70ft putt. It's just important for people to enjoy the game, alot of people say "I
love to play but don't have time for it". I say, just play 3 holes or 4 holes, it's like a fix . . . just like
working out, you'll find time for working out, you just do. Golf is the same way, you find time to play golf.
If you only want to play 3 or 4 holes, or that's all you have time for . . . just go. If you can do it everyday
your golf game is gonna stay atleast consistent. Courses should just charge per hole, do something
different to get people a chance to just play the game.
LN: What was your favorite course on tour?
NL: One of my favorites was Wykagyl in New York, I played well there and it was a fun golf course . . .
a great golf course, tough. The par 3's were very long, even when I hit it long I was hitting 3 irons and
2 irons - back when we hit 2 irons. Now I started to play all of the courses that I had not previously
played . . . played Whistling Straits last year and that was really an awesome place. Pebble Beach was
always my favorite, and I haven't played there in a long time, I'm hoping to go back there eventually
and play some. When we played Whistling Straits it was in great shape and there was no wind that day,
which was really unusual. The day before, we played the Irish course, it was very windy. I'm gonna say
that's my favorite right now.
LN: What were your impressions of the 18th hole (at Whistling Straits) ?
NL: I played it really crappy (laughing in a self deprecating tone), I couldn't figure it out . . . I probably
need to play it a few times. I did play Bandon Dunes also, it's really a man's place, there weren't many
women there when I got there. It's the type of place where you better know how to play golf when
you play there, the wind blew alot.
LN: Did you play all of the courses at Bandon? Your favorite?
NL: I was exhausted, I wish I would have gone there for five or six days and just played a little bit and
then took a break. I like Old MacDonald, I truly felt like I was in Ireland . . . it was pretty cool. I'd like
to go back and spend a vacation there. Hopefully go back when there isn't as much wind, there was a
three club wind everyday, it was tough. As a matter of fact, on the fourth day, I walked and watched
my friends play . . . I couldn't swing anymore, but I wanted to see the course.
LN: Shifting gears, let's talk Solheim Cup, what's keeping the U.S squad from getting it done? (Lopez had
just returned from the Solheim Cup in Colorado prior to our interview)
NL: I don't know, it was very aggravating. I think they all played very hard, but the Europeans I think for
a long time really believed that we were better . . . they don't believe that anymore and our players need
to believe that we are the best and we shouldn't let them beat us no matter what. We have to bring our
best game out, and unfortunately I think the players just misread the greens. I saw alot of good strokes
goin on, I didn't see pressure strokes. I saw good fluid putting strokes, just misreading everything. The
Europeans were just bangin it into the cup, they weren't playing any break . . . and that's how I used to
putt. I was really disappointed for Meg (Mallon) most of all, she is such a greatcaptain and they loved
her but I just don't think our players were quite prepared, I don't know why, I just have that feeling.
There were a couple of players that played really well, Lizette Salas was one that played very well.
Gerina Piller played very well, I thought Michelle Wie played very well . . . they criticized her for running
off the green after she made that putt, but she hasn't made too many putts and I know she was just
excited about that. Michelle Wie is a young person and I don't think she would ever do something like
that intentionally, she was definitely caught up in the moment.
LN: I know you are a bit of a mentor for Lizette Salas, your thoughts . . .
NL: I try to give her any encouragement that I can, I met her and her father last year, they are just
wonderful people. Lizette is a smart young person, she loves golf, she is very competitive . . . she
has alot of what the tour needs - she is good with people. She is a little impatient, she wants to win
yesterday, but I keep telling her don't do that . . . just keep playing, keep finishing in the top ten, get
used to that and get comfortable in those positions, because she'll win.
LN: Did you see that performance coming in her singles match against Suzann Pettersen?
NL: When I heard she was playing Suzann I thought, Uggh. I didn't really get to talk to her that morning
before she played. Suzann is such a great player and she loves Solheim. I went and watched them on
the backside and Lizette wasn't intimidated at all by her, which alot of the players can be. I think she
did a great job, but I wanted her to win the point though to beat Suzann, but she did a great job.
LN: Are you playing competitively now?
NL: Yes, I'm playing on the Legends Tour, I have quite a few tournaments now coming up, I didn't play
in as many in the beginning because I had other things going on. It's alot of fun and very competitive
. . . I'm not really playing well, I'd like to be playing better. I'm hitting the ball real well but I'm not scoring,
my putting has been really off. I went and saw Dave Stockton a few weekends ago and he got me back
on track. When you don't play alot you get out of your own habits, he got me back to where I was like
"Wow I didn't realize I wasn't doing that". Forward press and keeping my hands forward, so I'm hoping the
next tournament I play better, I'm hitting it well, just not getting it in the hole. I lost a little confidence
with it, once you start missing putts you lose confidence. He really got me feeling better about what I'm
doing on the putting green.
LN: What's in store for you?
NL: I live in Alabama now, my third daughter Torri is at Auburn, she wanted me to stay close to her right
now, I also have a home at the Villages in Florida, but I'm not there much, I'm traveling a lot right now.
Later that afternoon Jason Veretto from the Back9 Network, Steve Pike, Mike Bailey from World Golf and I
played a little golf with Nancy Lopez . . . a rare opportunity that I won't soon forget.
*Thanks to Pat Norton and Jane Dally from OnCourse Strategies for making this interview possible.