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March 20, 2007

Nancy Lopez

THE MODERATOR: This call is with Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, who is going to make her 2007 debut at the $2.6 million Ginn Open in Reunion, Florida, the week of April 12th through the 15th. I'd just like to start out the questioning.
Nancy, why is this your first tournament for the year?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I just felt like it was a good time to start. I've been working on my game, and of course trying to get in physical condition to start playing. I felt like it was time to just go out and try and put a little pressure on my game and really kind of prepare myself for the rest of the year.
I felt like Orlando, I feel comfortable there, my daughter is an intern at Disney; I thought maybe she could come out and watch me. I know a lot of friends and I have a lot of friends at the Villages in Florida so I'm hoping they come out and watch. I just felt like it was a good place to start.
THE MODERATOR: How many events are you planning to play this year?
NANCY LOPEZ: I would say at least six, maybe more. It just depends on everybody's schedule now. Ray is now going to be working for the Washington Nationals. He accepted a job just recently, so I'll be doing a little traveling up there, and then Torrie, our youngest, is still at home.
We'll be doing a lot of traveling going back and forth. I'll be working on my game, and hopefully it'll get better and better as I compete. I haven't really competed for a while, but my game has been pretty strong, hitting the ball very well, my putting is still pretty solid, and I'm just looking forward to seeing what I can do that first event.
THE MODERATOR: Are you working with an instructor again or a teacher?
NANCY LOPEZ: Not really. I've just been working with myself basically. I know my swing pretty well. There's a few people that I talked to about my swing that are professionals that have watched me swing, but I'm hitting the ball real well right now and don't really have any problems.
If I do have a problem with something I might see someone, but otherwise I feel pretty confident in the way I'm swinging and the way I'm hitting the ball.
THE MODERATOR: Have you played the Ginn Open course before?
NANCY LOPEZ: No, I have not.

Q. I just wondered, I read a magazine where you lost a lot of weight. How did you do that?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I started working out in the pool. But I think what happened, what made me start doing that, was in February a year ago I was gaining weight. It was going up, everything was going up, and my cholesterol and everything was going up.
I went to the doctor, and she said, We're going to have to put you on all this medication. What's going on? And I think I just was kind of settling into the comfort zone of just being home. I said, you know, I just don't want to do this.
So from that point in February to this point now I've lost around 37 pounds, more for my health more than anything. But I think by being with the Solheim Cup players and being a part of that team, being the captain of that team, I watched a lot of great golf. It was inspiring during that time, but when I walked away from it I was still enjoying my time of not having to do anything on the golf course.
Then in February when I started working out in the pool, which is probably what made me feel like I could come back out if I could get myself in physical condition, but I think what I struggled with the most at the end of really my golfing career full-time was that my body was hurting a lot.
I was doing a lot of working out, if anyplace, in the gym, and a lot of that was hurting. When I would get out on the golf course and play everything was hurting more than I wanted to, especially after I played or walked for so many days in a row.
Then from there, when I started working in the pool, my body started to become more flexible. I felt more comfortable. When I got on the golf course my bones weren't tight, and the flexibility that I was feeling made me feel like I could work out every day in the pool.
So I got my trainer to get in the pool with me, and we've been working out pretty much every day. And if she doesn't show up I'd go in the pool and work out in the morning. That's really what got me feeling better.
From there I said, I'm still hitting the ball really well. If I worked on it a little bit and tried to get in better physical condition, I think I still might be able to go out there.
I think there's still a question in my mind if I can still compete, at least at a high level, not just to play with -- compete with some of the best players that are on this Tour now.
I still have about 20 pounds to go. That's what my goal is, maybe about 18 now. But I'd really like to get in that kind of shape and see what my body tells me. Even though I've worked out and lost weight, will my knees bother me? Will my body hurt? I want to see what my body tells me, if I'm doing all right and it's all right to get out there and play again.

Q. I think you won your first LPGA Tour event in Sarasota, and I won the tournament that put you in the Hall of Fame here. Any special memories about either one of those tournaments?
NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, I did win my first LPGA event in Sarasota, and I won my 35th. It got me into the LPGA Hall of Fame. That was a special place for me for sure.

Q. I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about what your off-course endeavors have been since the Solheim Cup, in the business world what you've been doing.
NANCY LOPEZ: I've just really been staying involved in my golf club company which has been purchased by another gentleman in Canada, and working on that more trying to promote women's golf clubs, my golf clubs.
Been working with them. That's been exciting because of the new ownership. I think we're going to be where we should have been, and I wasn't happy with what was happening before. So now working with that has been great.
I'm very involved with the Villages in Florida. It's a retirement community, but I stay very active there with golf schools. I have three to four golf schools a year there. We have 30 students when we have the school.
Staying busy with my kids. I have two daughters that are at Auburn University: One will be graduating this year, and then Torrie is still 15, still at home. So I stay busy, busy with them. Now with Ray accepting the job with the Washington Nationals I'll be back watching baseball I'm sure many times. So I'm staying very busy with all that.
I was doing Golf Channel last year. I decided if I was going to spend eight weeks of doing Golf Channel I'd rather be playing golf.

Q. Do you have any idea what your schedule is going to look like, any other tournaments?
NANCY LOPEZ: I will probably play tournaments that I've played well in, courses that I have good feelings about, places that I have a lot of friends. I think the thing about golf is you always seem to go back to the places that have the positive memories, not the negative memories, and there's quite a few that I feel that way about that I'd like to play.
I'm looking forward to it. I know those golf courses well and I think that will help me to be able to play well on those courses because I do know them. Like I said, my goal is really -- I would love to finish in the Top 10 quickly. Hopefully that will happen. Just see where I compare.
That's just a big question in my mind, and how I will be able to compete again. I know Orlando might be a rough tournament for me because I haven't been under that pressure for a while, but I might surprise myself. I might be able to play well with that kind of pressure and just take it from there.

Q. Is there any part of your game that takes longer to get into shape than any of the other parts?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I think my short game was probably the one that probably I struggled the most with. But I guess I'm going to say about two or three years ago I took short game lessons from Dave Pelz, and he really helped me a lot because I always -- pretty much never had a teacher. My dad was always my teacher. Everything was feel and more just what I felt good about.
But when I would go out on the golf course I'd really struggle with my short game more than anything, not really putting. But he even helped me with that to get in better ball position when I was putting and head position. But the rest of the game doesn't seem to be as far off, it's just the short game would be.
But now that I've taken lessons from Dave, I know what to work on. He's got me moving the ball, in a better position in my stance, and my chipping and putting, which now I do miss a few more greens than I used to, it becomes -- it puts less pressure on me because now when I'm swinging a golf course I'm not afraid to miss a green because I know that my short game is going to be there to support me.
I hope to hit a lot of greens, but my goal is to always hit fairways and greens, and hopefully that will happen quickly. Golf is a game that is a lot of mental, and you want to feel a lot of positive things happening, and I'd like to see that happen in that first tournament.

Q. Did your swing in any way change much because of the weight loss?
NANCY LOPEZ: No, not really. It just became easier. My timing -- I pretty much practiced through the weight loss. My timing stayed pretty strong. I feel stronger. I definitely feel better, because when you start to get too heavy, you know, your legs hurt, your knees hurt, you're more tired. I would, like I said, like to lose 20 more.
It's going to take a while because my body has kind of come to a halt in what it's accepting and what I've lost. Now it's just really important to keep that going on and working hard to be strong because I don't hit the ball as long as I used to. Average is probably about 245, 250 off the tee right now.
But I think with the more I work out and I keep working out, I hope to get a little bit stronger, and of course with equipment, I think that will help me, too.

Q. Everybody wants to see the great champions of the game still competing and out on the course. Are you worried about being viewed as a novelty out there at all?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I'm sure that that will happen, and I think even in my mind sometimes I always looked at Arnold and Jack and I kept saying, When are they going to stop playing? I remember my dad saying I was playing my strongest when I was about 45 years old, and I really kind of quit playing at age 45.
I never really kind of proved him right. And now that I'm 50, I still feel that when I'm out there playing I'm hitting the ball real well, and I just want to see.
I mean, maybe I'm not the player that I think I am if I go out there and compete against the best players in the world, because I think I've had a lot of anxiety over the last few years because I watched Annika play so great and just always kind of was sitting back watching and waiting to see the other players kind of come out of the -- come out of somewhere to try and give her some competition.
I think at that time I was wishing I was back in those young days and I could play against Annika and work hard to be able to compete against her because I respect her very much. She has a great golf game.
I think now that players are starting to come -- the cream is coming to the top, and they're really working hard because I think their goal is to be as good as Annika because she has really set a high standard, not just physically but with her golf game.
I mean, I'm far from that, I believe, but I think that I might be able to pick it up quicker than I think. You know, I have to be able to walk and play rounds of golf five, six days in a row. Can I do that? You know, now that I'm more physically fit, yeah, I think I can. It might still hurt my body a little bit, but I want to see what I can do out there on the golf course.
Watching these great players play, especially when they were on my Solheim Cup team, it jarred a lot of memories of what I could do and what I did do on the LPGA Tour. Now I'm just saying, Let's see what you can do. I really want to play well. I'm not going to just play to play. I'm going to work hard on me game, see how good I can get again and just see where it takes me.

Q. Just a quick follow-up. You mentioned Arnold and Jack. It's so hard for great champions such as yourself who have that competitive fire to walk away from the game completely. How do you know when to say when?
NANCY LOPEZ: I think this time I'll know if it's really the time to walk away because of your body and because of your age and what your body is telling you more than anything. I know talking to Arnold so many times, he can still shoot those low 70s and then he'll shoot a high score and it just frustrates him. At one time in his life he just didn't do that, and it does frustrate him. I'm sure I'll feel frustrated sometimes.
I think that my mental game is still there. I think my mental game is very strong still, and I think that's what made me win and help me win tournaments for so many years is I just felt like I could. I thought I could. I worked hard on my game, and I think when I played with better players, of course, and they are going to be better than me now, I'm just going to get better again if I get to play with them.

Q. I just want to say for everyone who's listening, and you'll probably take this to heart, they keep telling us that 50 is the new 40, so I think it's terrific what you're doing. I have a question here about it. You mentioned getting to the Top 10 is one of your goals. Is there anything else that's motivating you more than anything to get out there again and compete?
NANCY LOPEZ: Just the way I feel. I feel the best I've felt in a long time. I think that's where it's coming from. You know, my heart and my mind tell me I can still do it. My body is what has really kind of given me the most problems, because I know the last few years if I played at all I would wake up in the morning and say, Why am I doing this?
I wasn't really preparing myself then. I just basically played because the fans kept writing to me and saying, Why aren't you playing? We just want to see you play. I didn't play well, I didn't make any cuts those last few years, but I just was out there because I loved the LPGA Tour. It's, to me, the most exciting Tour that there is. We have some great players now, and I have a lot of friends in so many of those players.
To be able to get back out there and walk on the golf course and enjoy that time in my life that has gone by now, but, yeah, to really feel and go in there with a competitive mind. I think, too, at the end of my career where I never really retired, I just had a farewell tour where I didn't feel I had the pressure of playing all the time. I just felt like, Well, I'm going to go back out there and play my best golf and really concentrate and see if I can do what I'm hoping I might do when I get back out there.
So I'm excited about it. I'm nervous again. When I was just playing to play I didn't have any nervousness anymore, and I knew the competitive spirit was gone. And now when I watch, when I play, just even last year when I played at some of the Legend Tour events, there was some nervousness there that I had in my younger years that I had kind of lost.
I thought maybe I just didn't care anymore. Maybe I was just tired of competing. But I have that nervousness back now, and it's good. The nervousness at that time helped me play better. Hopefully this nervousness now will do the same thing. I've got that nervous feeling back, which I like. I think that's probably the reason I feel the way I feel about playing.

Q. The men have had their Champions Tour, the Senior Tour. Do you wish perhaps at some point there will be a full-fledged Legends Tour for the women?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I'd love to see that happen for The Legends Tour. But I think, still, the LPGA is still building and still growing, and I just don't want to interference there. I want The Legends Tour to grow. I want the LPGA to support it 100 percent so when there aren't LPGA Tour events that there will be Legend Tour events where they're not really competing against each other.
I worked all my life to build the LPGA Tour. I hope and give as much as I could to help build it. And now The Legends Tour has come along, and I think they've got a lot of great players that played the game and really brought a lot of personality to the game that are playing on The Legends Tour now.
I'd like to see it grow, I just don't want interference with either Tour. I want them to be growing together and make sure that they're not competing against each other.

Q. Arnold has a message for you I picked up in Orlando that I'll pass on next time I see you. The only question is: When you walk on the first tee and when you're standing there with Annika and Lorena, can Nancy Lopez still intimidate people?
NANCY LOPEZ: They won't intimidate me. I'll be excited about that. I think that being able to play with those players is something I want to do. I hope that I get in that group. I'm looking forward to reaching that goal of being able to play with those players.

Q. What are your impressions of the depth of talent nowadays on Tour, especially among the younger generation of golfers?
NANCY LOPEZ: It's exciting. I think it's great because we've got -- I think somebody was joking that probably one of the players was about 40 and she said if she would quit the Tour the average age would be about 26. And I'm like, Yeah, you're right.
But I think that the players that are out there now, they have a lot of charisma, class, style, great golf games, and they're young. That's a great future for the LPGA Tour because they're going to be there for a long time. I think that that is great.
You look at Lorena and Paula and you look at Natalie and you look at Christina Kim and even Kristie Kerr who's not a baby anymore. She's considered old now, and it's fun to watch these players. They have a lot of fire, and I think that that's what's making it so exciting.
Now we're still fighting for TV time. Golf Channel does cover us, but we need national network coverage because people need to see the LPGA Tour full-time, every weekend, because they will fall in love with the LPGA Tour.
I have seen some of the greatest players play the game really since Annika came out, but even in the last few years when the young players have come out. It's fun to watch the Juli Inksters come out and beat some of those youngsters. She's still very motivated to play on top of her game. But we do have a very young Tour and it's outstanding. They do have personality and class, and I think a lot of people need to watch LPGA Tour because they're really nice girls, too. They're not all about themselves and they're definitely good for the LPGA Tour.

Q. Do any of the younger ones remind you of yourself?
NANCY LOPEZ: Paula Creamer does a lot. When I watch her -- and when I was her captain I watched her a lot -- and just the way she thinks and feels about golf and her competing reminded me a lot of myself.
THE MODERATOR: Nancy, everything well-said there. We look forward to having you at Ginn, and good luck and thanks for your time today.
NANCY LOPEZ: Thank you. I look forward to being there very much.

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