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July 19, 2000

Nancy Lopez


RHONDA GLENN: Nancy Lopez was given a special exemption to get into this Championship. We're always glad to see her play the Women's Open. Just tell us about the state of your game and how it suits this golf course.

NANCY LOPEZ: First of all, it's very exciting to have an exemption playing the U.S. Open. Earlier this year, I called the USGA office, and I guess it was the day they were voting on whether they were going to have a special exemption or not, and I just happened to call there, because I've never had to qualify. And so I was calling and I talked to one of the USGA officials and I said, "You know how do I do this, where are the qualifying schools, and can I write a letter?" Because the LPGA you write a letter to the sponsor, they give you an exemption if they want to. She says, "No, you can't write a letter." She says, "They are voting right now." I think they were in California. It was in California, and I had called the USGA office and she said, "They are probably voting, right now if they are going to do that." I said, "Golly, I'm too late, I guess." So anyway, that night, I can't remember who called me -- Mary Capouch called me and left an answer on my answering machine and told me they had given me a special exemption to play the U.S. Open, and I was very, very excited at that time. I flew through the house trying to find everybody to let them know I did have the call that I was given a special exemption. I was really, really thrilled. And I'm really glad to be here. I feel really good right now. I've been hitting the ball really well. My short game, I've been struggling with it for the last few years. So, I did proceed to go get a lesson. I'd never had a lesson before, maybe a tip or two from my father, but my dad has been my only teacher. So I told Ray, I was in the book store and kept seeing all of those books about putting from Dave Pelz. He's always been a good teacher of the short game. So, I decided to call him a little time ago, and I didn't know if he would ever call me back, just kind of waiting to see if he might come and give me a lesson. He's got a lot of players that want to see him. Eventually, he called me back and set up a time so I could go and get a lesson from him. And that was last week, went to Colorado for two days and went for chipping and putting. And I feel a lot more confident on my chipping and putting right now than I have in a long, long time. So, hopefully it will be great. You know, it's your choice to decide whether you want to use it at the U.S. Open, and I've been practicing real hard every day and I'm here chipping and putting, and it really has made a difference. I feel a lot more confident, and I think when I'm out there on the golf course, I don't feel as much pressure on my iron game because I feel like I can chip and putt better, and that has helped me mentally probably more than anything.

Q. Do you think there can ever be a full-fledged Women's Senior Tour? Can that be a success?

NANCY LOPEZ: I'd like to see that happen, but as of right now, I think a few events is probably all that we'll be able to handle. And I think that the senior tour is, you know, an event where you're going to get some of the players that are still playing well on this tour. Patty Sheehan doesn't play a lot right now. I think she's starting to play a little bit more. I think maybe the senior tour would get her out here a little bit more, I don't know. I think that it's tough to decide because they are making the age 43, which I don't consider myself a senior yet. And I certainly don't really want to play -- I can't say with old ladies, because they are as old as I am. But I think I'd like to be able to stay on this tour and stay more competitive out here, and play in the senior events, you know, whenever I can. But I would not say I would play full-time on the senior tour, no, because once I leave this tour, I'm going to go home and rest and do other things. I might play a senior event once in a while, but I would not play on the senior tour full-time, no.

Q. If my memory serves me correctly, I might be wrong, when we talked to you last year at the Open, you seemed to indicate that you probably would not ever go through qualifying to play in an Open. Had you changed your mind or were considering it?

NANCY LOPEZ: Really, probably right after the Open last year I told Ray, I said, "I don't really want to qualify for the Open because I'm going to be really embarrassed if I don't make it." So I think that was what was going to keep me from trying to qualify for an Open, the embarrassment of not being able to qualify. But as time went on I said, "Golly, I need to play in the U.S. Open." And Ray kept encouraging. He said, "You need to call, you need to go and qualify." And that's why I mentioned that phone call and at that time I had written in that I was going to qualify at the Rochester in New York, so that's where I planned to try and qualify; and that happened that same day, that I got the exemption.

Q. I know rules are rules and all, but should you have been put in that position where you had to wonder whether you were going to be allowed to play? I mean, your career would seem to have be good enough to where you should have been just let in. You are Nancy Lopez for God's sakes.

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, thank you. But not just for me to be able to play in the U.S. Open, I think it's different, because the LPGA really is the LPGA, and we're in the Hall of Fame. And I would think that if we have players that are still playing in the Hall of Fame, that are still playing, that they would be in the U.S. Open. I truly believe that they are the heart of women's golf, and certainly I, would like to see them play every week: Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan, Amy Alcott. You know, I think that they always add to a U.S. Open, because they can still hit it, and they can still score well. And, I think it just brings a lot of excitement there. That would be nice if there was a rule change for, you know, Hall of Famers to be in there, especially if they are still playing. That would be a nice, you know, nice -- I guess, feather in my cap to be able to say, hey, I can play in the U.S. Open because I am in the Hall of Fame, sure.

RHONDA GLENN: One note you might be interested for your stories, Kathy Whitworth tried to qualify in sectional qualifying in the early 90s, did not make it. She is somebody who has won many tournaments, and the following year was given a special exemption to play.

Q. And JoAnne Carner tried to qualify this year in Rochester. Part of the reason you might have qualified was because how much you wanted to win this tournament and this is the one that has eluded you?

NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, I think there's times when I walk away from a U.S. Open and I just really want to go slit my wrists, (laughs) because I'm so frustrated because I've played poorly. But then you walk away from the U.S. Opens where you play great golf courses that you really, really love. And that's what golf is all about, is playing those great golf courses that are difficult, but, yet, you are able to go out there and hit the shots and play well. So, playing in a U.S. Open, you know you're going to play the toughest course you're going to play, probably, for sure all year, and, you know, when you're a professional athlete or a professional golfer, you want to be able to play that course, to walk it, to hit the shots, to sense the crowds and everything else, because there's just so much more to it, than just, you know, just playing in the tournament. But there's so much involved in the excitement of it, but I think after I left the Open last year, I said, I don't know if I want to do that, and like I said the only reason really is fear of not qualifying, because I would hate to fail in that area. I'm just glad to be here. I'm excited to be here. I've been working on my golf game. I've been hitting the ball real well. Like I said, it was just the decision to work on my short game. When you don't play a lot week-in and week-out, you get rusty and your short game quality suffers most of all. And like I said, I've never had a lesson before. So, it was really -- really hard for me to decide that I needed someone to look at my game. I never had to really ask anybody to do that. And so, it was a great experience for me. I learned that I was making the game a lot tougher, and Dave -- Dave just said, "Gosh," he says, "the talent that you have, you're just working so much, so hard, to hit certain shots. Let's make it easier." And it certainly is easier now, and it's going it get better and better, I think, the more I practice it, the more I use it; and certainly now putting a little bit more pressure on it. I'm going to see how it goes, and it's not any big change or anything. He didn't try and change my swing. He just says: "Your tempo is good. We're working with that. We can do just a little bit of positioning, that's it."

Q. Is it more with chipping and putting?

NANCY LOPEZ: Chipping and putting.

Q. What changed more, putting or chipping? What are some of the keys?

NANCY LOPEZ: I've always kind of stood away from the ball putting, and now I'm right over it and gripping really low on my putter. I've got my fingers on the shaft to be able to get above the ball and just have my arms hanging. It feels great, and the ball is coming off the blade so much better. I'm not pushing and pulling. He was teaching me more of the subconscious, what it was doing to me. I'm probably going to start seeing him. He said I probably just need to see him like four times a year to keep everything sharp, because I don't play that much, because he thinks that I should be able to still win if I just sharpen things up a little bit. So, I'm going to work on it really hard. And I'm glad I went to see him. It just gave me a boost of confidence, especially here before the U.S. Open. You know, I feel real good about -- like I said, I think when I've always come to the U.S. Open, I've always put a lot of pressure on my iron game, not just the driving game, but the iron game. If I didn't hit the greens, I was really struggling to get up-and-down. And at least now, if I struggle to get up-and-down -- but at least I have a chance to get up-and-down, and that's the difference in the way I feel this week compared to other weeks in the U.S. Opens.

Q. Did you change the patented Nancy Lopez finger down on the grip?


Q. Having been with you from the beginning when you came out, I know how much practice you put in in those early years. Are you practicing -- honest Indian, now -- are you practicing as much now as you did then?

NANCY LOPEZ: No. Not from the beginning, no. I don't practice close to that. But now I'm practicing a little bit more in that I go out and play more rounds of golf when I go home than I have before. Playing golf with Ray, practicing with him, at least, I'm going out and playing and I'm hitting balls. And now, I think with working on the short game, I want to practice, because I want it to get better, so I have something to work on, and that's making me practice more. But just playing with Ray, I think his golf game is getting better; so I have to play really well to beat him, because he's not a good loser, so -- or a good winner, either. But we have a good time when we're out there, and he makes me really work on my game, too. So, I am getting out there and playing more and practicing more than I have in years past.

Q. You said that Dave Pelz said he thinks you still could win. Do you think you could still could win? It's been a while and you have not won, not playing as much? Do you think you still have what it takes to win out here?

NANCY LOPEZ: Like I said, when you don't play a lot, you don't really have that confidence and sharpness in your game, especially short game. Short game is what struggles most when I have not played in a while. You know, every time I went out there, I was practicing and practicing, but not really practicing right things, and now I'm practicing the right things that are going to make me take two or three shots off my game, which is really, you know what has hurt me every day, two or three shots, two or three shots. So, if I can take two or three shots off my game every day, sure, I think it's going to help tremendously.

Q. Why do you think it is that there are not more Americans amongst top young players, under-30 players, especially? And also, do you think it's important to women's golf to have some good young Americans coming along?

NANCY LOPEZ: I don't really know the answer to that question. You see a lot of players from all over the world come over here and play really great golf. I think that their golf games probably develop much better playing with the players here. We have some great players, but like you said, you look at what's coming up, who is coming up, and there are definitely no foreigners that are developing greater players. I don't know, I don't know what's happening. I know that the Junior Golf Programs of the United States, I think they have grown tremendously. You know, I don't know what it is. I don't know the interest of -- I try to get my kids to play, Ashley and Erinn, my two oldest. They will go out and play with me, but to go out and play golf, you know, now Ashley has got a boyfriend that plays golf; so maybe she'll start playing. You know, it just -- I've wanted them to play, but, of course, too, it's been hard for me to get them started, because when I go out to the golf course to practice, I don't want to have to give them lessons. I need to practice my golf game. So, it gets confusing. But our eight-year-old loves to play. She takes lessons during the summertime and she enjoys it. She's the one I think would play golf and enjoy the game with other kids her age. But, I mean, I'd love to see more Americans playing -- coming up, to see some really great players coming forward and coming out on the LPGA TOUR, but I just really have not seen that. And like I said, I don't have an answer for that.

Q. Annika was in here earlier today and she talked about -- she described herself as a statistical nerd in that when she goes out to play a golf course, she does not really allow her heart into it; she's very mental about it. I wondered when you were really at the peak of your career, did you ever think like that, or have you always been more of a player playing with your heart or by the feel of the game a little more?

NANCY LOPEZ: She said she was a statistical nerd? What does that mean? (Laughter.) I don't know how she can say she's playing with her heart, because to me, you play with your heart. The great golf she's played, I can't say that that's just statistical. I would think she's playing with her heart and soul when she's out there, I mean, the way I look at her playing, she's involved in what she's doing. She shows emotion. I think that's all part of your heart. I've always played with my heart and my emotions, and you know, when you're able to control your emotions, when the pressure is on your still controlling your emotions. I don't know, that's awkward, to me, because I don't see that in Annika. I see her really playing her hardest, but I see it coming from her heart.

Q. For about the millionth time, what would it mean for you to win this Open?

NANCY LOPEZ: I told you what I would do if I win the U.S. Open: I'm going to camp out on the green and I'm going to stay out there for a whole night just to enjoy it. I'm just going to stay there and just think about that last day and that last hole and the crowd and everything else.

Q. Well, in the same sense, which Open do you think -- most people are going to think of Pumpkin Ridge, but do you think that's that was the one that slipped away, or do you think there was any other Open that was yours and you didn't get it?

NANCY LOPEZ: You know, I think you always feel like you should have won. I finished second four times, and I go back to Hazeltine with Hollis, and you know, my zipper busted on the last day. And I mean it was really hard to concentrate when my pants were open, just terrible. And then in Atlantic City as an amateur, finishing second to Sandra Palmer, you know, that was probably the least amount of pressure because nobody expected me to win it as an amateur, but then Hollis and my pants busting. The next one was Baltusrol. You know, I didn't play well that last day at Baltusrol. The other tournaments I played well and that day I did not play well. I struggled really hard that last day at Baltusrol. And then, you know, with Alison Nicholas, I played some of the best golf I have played in a U.S. Open, shooting four scores under 70 and not winning was kind of disappointing. But it was cute, the other day I was telling people that I was coming to the U.S. Open and my daughter, Ashley, was standing next to me. And I said, "Two years ago, I should have won the U.S. Open shooting four scores under 70." An d Alison Nicholas was there -- I wish she would not have been there, and she says to her mom, "You told her to stay in the States and play." So it's like my fault. (Laughter.) So it was kind of neat that she paid attention to that article or whatever it was that she read. But that was the Open that I felt great, really great at, really worked at. I got into great shape and I felt really super and my game was right there. So I felt really good about that one. That's the one I felt like I should have taken with me. But I love this golf course. This one reminds me of Pumpkin Ridge a lot. I like it a lot. You know, now it's just endurance for me. I feel like I have the game. I just have to have the endurance to play and not get tired. I feel myself getting a little tired, and I think it's because of the surgery I had a few weeks -- well, 13, 14 weeks ago, and just trying to get rid of some of the weight I've gained and get back into it. And, you know, my knees are still there. But I think when you concentrate, you don't feel all those things. It's when you're finished and you stop and you sit down and can't get up as well. But when you're concentrating, you just don't feel all those things. You don't feel your knees. You don't feel tired. Your body may be tired but you don't feel it as much. But I like this golf course. And the way I feel about my game right now, I feel like I have a good chance to play very well here, and I certainly would like to get to the top on Sunday.

Q. You did play here a couple of years ago. Have you played out here anymore or is this the first time you've been back?

NANCY LOPEZ: First time back.

Q. And did you notice many changes in the course? Has it matured a little?

NANCY LOPEZ: Yes, it's definitely matured, and it's in super shape. The greens are slick, or getting slicker. The fairways are even slick. You can't get in that rough. It's some of the toughest rough I think I've ever played in a U.S. Open. I'm going to hit a lot of 3-woods off the tees and try and position. Might have a little bit longer shot into some of the greens, but I don't want to be in that stuff because you've got no shot. I mean, it's a wedge or, you know, something really, really lofted. It's tough. Today, you know, whenever I got into it, I just hit to the fairway and just tried to save par and worked on that. But it's so tough. There's no reason and try and go any further than you have to, because you're going to end up in it again, and you don't want to have to do that. You want to be out in one shot and not be in it any more, but it's tough. The course is super. It's in great shape. The wind is going to make it really tough. The greens are hard already. You know, it's going to be a good, good test of golf, but I think it's a fair golf course. Blackwolf Run, I thought was a little unfair. That was my least favorite golf course, because if you hit it in trouble, you could never -- you couldn't swing at the next shot. And most of the time I was going back to the tee and hitting again. You know, I just hated that. But at least here, if you do get in trouble, you can drop somewhere and hit again, and then you're not going to have to be so penalized by having to go back to the tee. But it is a fair, difficult golf course. And it's going to get harder. Greens are going to get harder. It's going to get tougher. But you just have to be smart and try and make the least mistakes you can.

RHONDA GLENN: Among the courses you've been runner-up in Women's Open at least three of them were amongst toughest courses: Atlantic City, Baltusrol and Pumpkin Ridge, I would say. Do you think you have an advantage when the course is really difficult?

NANCY LOPEZ: I don't know. I like to play tougher golf courses. They seem to make me concentrate better. I feel more focused on them, maybe than just a golf course that's wide open. You definitely, definitely have to focus on what you're doing out there. But it's beautiful. I mean, it's in super, super shape. And when you have a golf course like this, you just, you know, you're excited to be on it and you just can't wait to hit the next shot, can't wait to putt. Hopefully, won't have to hit out of the rough, but it's just really, really a nice golf course.

Q. You mentioned a little bit about endurance, if the weather stays as pleasant and mild as it is, is that a benefit for you, especially compared to last year?

NANCY LOPEZ: Definitely. The last two days I've played, I've had a lot of energy, felt really, really good. It's not been really hot, and it's been fun playing the last couple days because of the coolness. 80 is cool to me, being from south Georgia; it's so hot there. This morning, everyone was saying, "Why are you not wearing a jacket?" I said, "Why, I don't want to be hot. I want to be cold." And it was just really, really nice out there.

Q. Was there something in your game that finally convinces you that you needed to take a lesson from someone other than your dad, and do you wish you would have taken one a little earlier?

NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, I probably do wish I would have taken one a little earlier. In my feeling and in my thoughts and every time I step over a shot, you know, I just really never, maybe in the last few years maybe never really felt sure, and that comes from not playing very much. But, you know, that's not fun. So you're just working and you're working and you're trying to get that unsureness out of your mind or out of the feeling in your hands, or, you know, out of that feeling of that shot. I think after taking some lessons, you know, he just made it easier. I've really not missed many shots with what he's showed me. I was really having a problem hitting fat, thin, fat thin, not real consistent, especially when I was trying to play some kind of shot and didn't hit it consistent. But now, it's definitely better. He has a -- this little point system that. When I first got there, he just asked me to hit certain shots in certain areas. He didn't give me any lesson at all. He just said, hit this, putt this, chip this. And there's a circle -- two circles around a hole, chipping. And, you know, when I was chipping, I had my sand wedge. I have a 60-degree wedge in my bag this week, which I have never had in my bag, either. And I was always trying to chip with my sand wedge, these shots that were a little more difficult that, you know, really, I was working really hard to get it close. So anyway, I was chipping to the circles, and before he gave me a lesson, he gives you points, and the most you can make is 20. And he didn't tell me that until after I had chipped and after the lesson and then he did it. But when I chipped, at first I think I made like six points out of 20, which I didn't know that, like I said, six points. And then when he gave me my lesson, and this was after, you know, two days of lessons, my points were 16 points. So, I went from having six points to 16 points, and then he told me what he was doing. So definitely, my chipping had improved with the lesson he gave me. And the putting, too. It's so much better, and I think it's just going to get better and better as the days go on. But, you know, confidence is seeing the ball go in. I've seen a lot of putts go in the last few days, and that excites me a lot. You know, it's gotten better already, and now, like I said, now I test it with pressure and we'll see how it goes.

Q. Kind of stroke that will be good on a U.S. Open speed course?

NANCY LOPEZ: Yes, definitely.

Q. You mentioned Blackwolf Run. A lot of people that went up there were maybe from the Milwaukee and Chicago area, also the same fans that will be out here, and the memory they have is you marching up with a white towel, surrendering. Do you think you can leave fans with a different memory this time?

NANCY LOPEZ: Definitely. I don't want to say this course is a lot easier than Blackwolf Run, because it's not, but it's just a different course, a whole different personality golf course. And yeah, Blackwolf Run was not fun. You know, you really had to just kind of laugh at yourself. The group that I played with, Meg and Jane Geddes, it was more of, you know, who could survive in our little group of three, because we were all 12, 13, 14 -- I don't know, we were way over par. We were kind of rooting for each other to make the cut. You know, who was going to make the cut, because it was really a tough -- if was a tough two days. Meg started with a 9 on the 1st hole on the first day, and that just really didn't get us off to a very good start. It shook us up, all of us up. You know, it's funny, because when Meg had hit it into trouble on the 1st hole. I hit a really good drive right down the middle, and I hit my second shot while she was in this stuff. And she hit one shot and hit a tree and went further in the stuff. And I sat there and I felt really sorry for her. I mean, Meg is, I feel, a good friend out here, and I really sympathized with her, because I was just like I'm so glad that's not me because I just felt for her I just felt her emotions. She's in the U.S. Open and she didn't get out of this stuff. Some of the officials told me to go ahead and walk up and Jane was still -- and that green was very elevated; so all I could see was the ball up in the air, but it never got to the green. And I saw another ball, and it didn't get to the green. And I'm sitting there, and I'm like, "Oh, my gosh." I didn't know how many times they had hit. And so my caddy, Tom, looked at me, and he said, "Can I get anything for you?" And I said, "Two Valium, please." I was sitting there, just a wreck watching this happen, I felt so bad. So you know, she took a 9, Jane took a 6 and I had about a 10-footer for birdie and I choked. I was like -- I was afraid to hit it past the hole. And it was horrible, and we're walking to the next tee and just all like in mourning, we're in mourning already and we've only played one hole. So we're playing, and poor Meg, I went up to her and I patted her on the back and she goes: You know, it's really so hard, you work so hard and all of the sudden you make a 9. You feel like you just shot yourself right out of there," because we had a lot of golf course left after that. And then on Friday, I guess it was the 14th hole, it was the first time we all hit the green in regulation, all three of us, Friday. So I stood there and I said, "Gosh, do you all realize this is the first green we have all hit in regulation?" And we looked at each other and Meg says, "Hey, we can play." (Laughter.) And we just burst out laughing, the caddies burst out laughing, and the fans, I think they were all like what are they laughing about? But it was just tragedy. It was horrible. And it was Jane Geddes idea to put the towels on the putter. She said, "Let's wave the white towels when we talk up the 18." I said, "That sounds great to me." It was an experience there.

Q. I would assume you have checked the wardrobe out and made the appropriate move to get the zipper fixed?

NANCY LOPEZ: No zipper trouble again, for sure.

Q. Besides Juli, who do you look to as the American favorites this week?

NANCY LOPEZ: I'm trying to think who has been playing the best right now. Rosie plays good in the U.S. Opens. Kelly Robbins, you know, to me, I played with her a couple times this year and she was really hitting the ball well. I heard she was struggling with putting or something, but she has a good opportunity to play well here, because she hits the ball a long way. And I think with her length, she can hit in the fairway and then hit on the green. Betsy King has been playing well. She could play well here. But, you know we've got players that are playing well. But, you know, when you ask me, I always say Karrie Webb. Annika, too, but Karrie to me has played really the best golf. She's finished in the Top-10 so many times. Unfortunately, I feel like she has not been recognized enough for it, though, because she has played some super fantastic golf. She's really -- and I hate to say the Tiger Woods of our tour, but she really -- she's playing that type golf. I certainly would say she would be a favorite to play well this week.

Q. How did you play that day when the zipper broke?

NANCY LOPEZ: I played okay. I played well, but it was so hard to concentrate. I couldn't read my putts. I would -- you know, kind of pin it together and you could kind of zip it and it stayed up, but as soon as I bent over to green the putt, it split right own. It was really awful, really uncomfortable.

Q. Will you pick a winning score, please?

NANCY LOPEZ: A winning score? I'd like to shoot even par for four days. If the wind blows the way I think it can, and you know, I think there's some people say, well the course is a little shorter. It's not. You can't play it that way. You cannot hit a driver all the time -- and even a 3-wood. It might be a little shorter, but it's got to be in the fairway because you're not -- you don't have a chance. And the par 3's are good when the wind is blowing. It's all position. But I'd like an even par, for myself.

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