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June 1, 1999

Nancy Lopez


RHONDA GLENN: Nancy Lopez, many great runner-up finishes in this championship; four times, for that matter. Let's start with the most obvious thing, most obvious difference this year. Tell us about your knee, what the condition is now and, after playing this golf course which has some very tough finishing holes, I think really it begins at 16 which is uphill. Talk to us about that, please.

NANCY LOPEZ: I notice in the last three months my legs were really bothering me, both legs. We kind of looked -- doc kind of looked at me in the trailer and just checked my hips and noticed that I wasn't really strong hip-wise. My hip flexors were kind of weak. He thought maybe it was just my lower back and we would do some more checking. My legs were hurting a lot at Sara Lee. And I went with a chiropractic. I don't really go to chiropractic. Thought maybe they could see what was going on, or maybe if I really did need an adjustment. Like I said, I don't really need -- I've been to two my whole life. I went to this guy because I had known him for a long time and he would not be popping or cracking anything. He checked a few things. My right hip was a little low, lower than my left hip. And then we did some X-rays in my legs. I haven't had cartilage in my left knee for a long time. I had surgery years ago. But after time, it wears. And now what the X-ray showed was that I had bone on bone on this knee. The outside part, cartilage was healthy, and outside part of my right leg was healthy. And inside cartilage, you could see just a little bit. So eventually this is going to be bone on bone also. In the X-ray it showed a little bit of arthritis starting to set in. So that's really what's been causing the problems is just wear and tear. I hate to say getting older, but that's really what's happening. And when he looked at me, he said, you know, your knees look like someone that's 60 years old. So I guess I beat them up pretty good. All the bending and squatting and everything else that I've done when I'm playing. But it doesn't really hurt. We've tried different braces just to see what makes it feel more comfortable. I really should be wearing one on the other leg, but I feel like that's -- I don't want to look ridiculous out there. I think what bothered me the most is my whole body on the other side hurts because I favor it. When I walk up hills, I favor my right side more, or I feel like I do, and not because my left knee hurts. So I'm just a little sore. My physical therapist has me doing a lot of water exercises, which has really helped. I feel better after I do those. I get in the pool for about 20, 30 minutes and do some water exercise, and it really feels good when I get out of there. So I'm just going to keep doing what they tell me to, and hopefully they can get me through it. It doesn't hurt when I swing. It just hurts when I walk.

RHONDA GLENN: Specifically 16, which is uphill, has that been difficult?

NANCY LOPEZ: It wasn't too bad. I was a little tired coming up the last few holes. I might have felt a bit more. But like my husband said, if it's -- if it's there, I just have to play with it. I have to go ahead and deal with it and not worry about it and do the best that I can. I could sit back and make excuses, and I don't want to do that; and he's right. If I'm going to play, I have to decide: I'm going to play no matter what's hurting or what's not hurting. I've got to do that. So that's what I'm doing. I'm just going to go out there and play my best, and my knee feels fine.

Q. Nancy, can you just talk about first how this will affect your game this week; and second, will you be needing any knee replacement surgery?

NANCY LOPEZ: We haven't talked about knee replacement at all. I don't think it's going to bother me at all. It might get a little tired coming in the last few holes, but not really swinging. Just walking.

Q. Nobody in women's golf has had to deal with expectations like you have throughout your career. This year, coming off the last year with Chuasiriporn and Se Ri in the finals, the expectations are so hard. And do you think it's too much for them to deal with, both youngsters?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I definitely think there's probably -- there's always pressure, for sure. And I know for Se Ri there's been a lot of pressure. For her to perform not -- not really so much from herself but her fellow country people. I think that they have expected a lot from her. And because it matters to her, it's probably put more pressure on her. She is a great little player. She needs to have breathing room because she's not going to be perfect all the time. And I think after winning some majors last year, playing as well as she did, you know, now it's expected that she's going to do that all the time. And, you know, it's just not going to happen all the time. But she's the type of player that can play great golf for many, many years. You know, she can deal with the pressure on the outside. She is going to be fine. She just has to be able to get through that. She loves golf. She works very hard on her golf game. I've sat with her and talked with her many times. She's the type of player she can overcome anything with her golf game. But like I've always said, if you care, life is kind of tough when you care; and she does.

Q. Here, Jenny is turning pro. How difficult will that be for her?

NANCY LOPEZ: I'm sure she'll feel a lot of pressure. It's tough, anyway. When you first turn professional and you're out here and after having the Open that she had last year, she is probably going to have more pressure than a lot of people. I think probably more so from herself, more so from herself.

RHONDA GLENN: I remember the first year you turned pro, you did not yet have your card. This was your first tournament and you finished second.

NANCY LOPEZ: Yes, I was a declared professional, and I did finish second. And I guess when I was there, I didn't feel a lot of pressure because I felt like nobody really knew who I was. So I didn't have that kind of pressure on me. All I knew was that when I was younger, I wanted to beat the old ladies out there. And now I'm like I'm the old lady and they want to beat me. It was a lot of fun playing in that Open, and I remember it very well. I respected Hollis very much, because I had watched her play professional golf as an amateur. And I know when I finished second to her, like we talked about it before I lost that Open. But I think it was because my zipper was busted on my pants that final day; so, I have to blame it on the pants and the zipper, that that's the reason I didn't win that Open. But it was a great experience for me, and, you know, really got me started off on very positive note before I went the next week, when I went right outside Toledo and got my LPGA playing card.

RHONDA GLENN: And your parents were there and Jenny's parents are coming in to watch her professional debut. There are some similarities.

Q. As you talk about aches and pains setting in and you are getting older, is there any building anxiety for the tournament that you have not won and probably the one that you cherish the most?

NANCY LOPEZ: You're asking about how I'm preparing? You know, I came into this year and I've kind of -- you almost try and figure out: There's got to be some way to win an Open. You almost think there's a way to figure it out, and there's not. But I keep thinking that I can, and I know there were years that I said the U.S. Open is a goal to win. And then I put too much pressure on myself, and then I went through a few years where I really didn't care. And I just need to play my best golf and have my best game ready. But then after Pumpkin Ridge, I realized that I need to really set that as a goal again, and have my golf game ready when I went to the U.S. Open. And it's happening this year. My game is there. I'm putting the best I've putted, and I feel real positive, hitting the ball solid. Feel great about being here at Old Waverly. So there's a lot of good, positive feelings, as it was two years ago when I was at Pumpkin Ridge. I really liked that golf course and looked forward to playing. There, I said, gosh, my body is starting to hurt a little bit more, and do I want to have to play with pain? And the time I really feel the pain is when I stop and I get home and I put my feet up and I lay in bed. That's when I really start feeling the pain. That's when it starts hurting the most. When you can't sleep well at night. I'm saying to myself, this is a picture. You've got your golf game. You're at a place you feel comfortable. You've played the course a lot. You know, just go out there and play your own game. And I've played really well this whole movement. I've had lots of birdies, but unfortunately I've had lots of bogeys. And I can't figure out why. I feel like I'm hitting the ball so well that I shouldn't be hitting so many bogeys. And I have to look at my mental attitude. There were times when I missed the green, it kind of frustrated me; so I got really flustered. So I'm saying: Okay, let's think about this some more. And I'm being analytical, and I'm analyzing everything like my husband, because he's rubbed off on me, and I don't like to do that. I feel like I'm ready. I feel like my golf game is there. I feel like my putting is there. I feel like everything is so up for me, and I just want to go out there and play my best game, and I feel like that will be enough. I feel like I've just got to make it through the four days.

Q. Is there a different mindset between younger and older players when they are paired together? Like when you were paired with Mickey Wright in the tournament in the late '70s, or JoAnne Carner, was there a feeling that you wanted to show them that you could play with them? And now being paired with Jenny, do you think that you still want to show that you can, you know, you're still a terrific player?

NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, I think when I was playing with some of the older players, you do, you feel like you want to show them that you can play. And I really thrived on that, because I seemed to always play well when I was playing with players like that. And I think, you know, when I'm playing with the younger players, I know when I've played with Annika a few times, I think I feel the same way. Now that I'm older, I'm like, okay, these are the best young players of our time, and I want to play as well, if not better than they are, and so, you know, you kind of pull out the guts and you go out there and you just, you know, grind over every shot, and you just give it your all because I want to be able to stay right there with them. I think it's the same way as I was when I was younger, playing with the older players for me.

Q. When you saw the pairing that you were going to play with Jenny, what was your reaction?

NANCY LOPEZ: Great. I'm glad. I have a nice group to play with. I think more so in the U.S. Open, you just want to have somebody that you enjoy playing with. I have not played with Jenny, but I'm sure I will enjoy and I've played with Chris before. So it's more like the comfort zone, who you enjoy playing with. Like I said, I've played with Chris; so, I think we will have a good threesome.

Q. With your knee problem, is that going to end your career prematurely? How long do you see yourself playing? Is this going to affect your decision?

NANCY LOPEZ: I don't know. I'm going to try to do everything I can to get through it and hopefully get it to feel better. Unfortunately, I can't work out the way I was. Now I'm doing rehab instead, and I really have to try and keep my weight down because more weight is not going to help the situation. It's harder since I can't do my cardio and stuff like that. Just a little bit, not too much. And I still need to work on trying to keep everything in shape as much as I can, because that's going to help me with the longevity of how long I'm going to be able to stay on the TOUR. I'm not really thinking about anything except just getting through this time and feeling better and feeling good every morning when I get up, because there's some days that I get up and get out of bed and I can't walk very well. And after I warm up, I'm okay. But it's a terrible feeling. I hate it. I just really hate feeling those aches and pains. You know, I'm not going to get any sympathy around my house because my husband played with torn Achilles, messed up rotator cuffs and everything. He played like that, and he never complained. And I'm not going to complain, because he's not going to say honey it will be all right. I just have to grin and bear it and go on and play the best that I can until it just kills me and I just can't play anymore that that will be the time that I make that decision.

Q. Are you on any medication?

NANCY LOPEZ: No, but I'm taking all these homeopathic type stuff. I'm taking Glucosamine Sulfate and Dust and all this other stuff. I'm getting letters. I'm getting knee braces and I'm getting all kind of stuff, and I really do appreciate because I know they do care to send me all this type of stuff. But my physical therapist has me on certain things and she's gotten my trainer to know what I can do; what I should not do. So we're going to work on that a lot more as the year goes on. Hopefully things will get better.

Q. Nancy, we've seen Elway way and others win the big one at the latter stages of their career. How much inspiration is that to you?

NANCY LOPEZ: I always want to see that; see some of the great athletes that you pull for all the time to do well. You know, it's sad, though. I've seen, you know, Gretzky retire this year. It's sad because you sit there and you're like, gosh, is it going to be like that for me? Do I have to go through all that the day that I decide to wind kind of walk away? I decide if I retire, I'm playing only flat golf course -- not hilly ones. I'm retiring with the hilly once and playing only the flat ones. I think in golf, you can never really retire. I would just play for fun. I would just say I'm here playing for fun, when I retire, because I might still play. But when I finally decide that I'm just really playing for fun because I can't win anymore then I might say something like that. But I still feel like I have that golf game that can win. Now I've got to get this between my areas in the right stage, because that's what controls the rest of me. I feel really good this week and my whole family is coming for the first time to a U.S. Open much my daughters are coming tomorrow, and Ray is here today. I said, well, it's one way to change my luck. I always thought I needed to be here by myself and not too many people to be around me. But I'm going to do it a little different this year and have everybody here. It will be a lot of fun.

Q. Is that is right of part of the analyzing you were talking about earlier?

NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, I think -- Ray always says I've taken the Open so serious, and that I really needed to be more laid back and not think golf so much when the round is over. And I think at the U.S. Open, I always seem to carry golf home with me where I don't really do it with any other tournament. I think this year, with my kids being with me, it's going to be more of: I'm just going to go back and not worry about the next day. Go back out on the golf course next day refreshed, because I have not been thinking about golf all night long.

Q. Nancy, he Se Ri went through the burnout at the end of last year, and she made some changes to make herself happier. How do you think the changes are working for her? How is she doing?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I haven't really talked to her in the last few weeks a lot. I talked to her a little bit last night but we didn't really get to talk about all that. I know that she went through a lot last year. She was expected to do a lot. I was really there to let her know that she could say no once in awhile, because, you know, my first year on TOUR, I said yes to everything. And then I finally realized; I said, I just can't do everything. And I told her the same thing. You're only going to be your best if you can be your best and not worn out. I know a couple times last year the pressure from her sponsors wanting her to play, and she would ask me: Should I play? And I would ask her: Were you planning to play? And she said no, I was planning to take a week off. Then you should take a week off because everybody is going to want you to play every week, and you've got it do it. You've got to give yourself time. She's got to learn what her body can handle. Week-in and week-out, it's tough, because it's not just playing golf. It's press; it's fans; it's the media in Korea. There's a lot of things of getting her the pressure and it will wear you out. And Se Ri I don't think wants to be a one-year player. She wants to have a career that's long and she plays well. You know, she needs to realize that, and she's very young and I think that, you know, her parents need to protect her as much as they can, because they are really her best friends. You know, she don't need to putt any pressure on her. They need to be her friends. That's how my dad was. If I didn't play well -- my dad did not read the papers and did not feel like there was pressure from anybody. He just wanted me to be happy. That's all that he wanted for me. And I think with that, he made me realize that if I was happy, I was going to play my best golf. If I was stressed out or pulled all different ways and I was not happy with what I was doing, I would not be successful. So I always lived my golf career like that; like the way my dad said I should live it. And if I didn't play well I just went back and practiced to get my game back in shape. So talking to Se Ri, I just let her know that it's okay to say no once in awhile, doing away from golf once in awhile and not pick up a golf club in a week. Because she's been so trained to practice all the time, you cannot eat, breathe and live golf all the time like that. You'll burn out and she won't be on TOUR successfully for as long as she can be if she does not give herself that time to have a break, even if it's just a week and not feel guilty about it. Because that's the toughest thing about being a professional athlete: You feel guilty when you're not practicing. You can't walk away from playing a practice round without competing. I know I played a few practice rounds with Ray when I first married him. I realized that I could not play a friendly game of golf. It was really tough. I could not just say, okay, I'm going to hit this. It was: I'm going to get it close, I'm going to make a birdie; I'm going to beat him. I could not relax. And I've finally learned to relax when I'm playing a practice rounds, because you're always in a fish bowl and people are always watching. And it was really, really tough for me because I realized I could not keep doing that. So she needs to do that. I think she will. She's a wonderful kid. Great -- she has a great little mind. She wants to play very well. She works very hard and she wants to please her parents. She's got it all right. Like I said, she needs to just say no once in awhile. It doesn't mean she's a bad person when she says no. I know like she feels she is if she does. So I'm there to just give her a hug every once in awhile, and let her know that she's doing the right things and that will happen and she just needs to be patient.

Q. Nancy, Patty Burke, who won the first U.S. Open here, did you ever talk to her about the early days of the U.S. Open are of the TOUR and how far it's come since then?

NANCY LOPEZ: No, I never really have. I never really picked her brain on that. I know when I see Patty, she's just a breath of fresh air. She's just a neat, neat lady. Every time I see her, I'm just so glad she's there, because she's added so much to the LPGA TOUR with her attitude and the way that she goes out and talks about the LPGA TOUR. She's such a great ambassador. When she is there, you're just glad to see her and you feel excited that she comes up to you and says hi to you and recognizes you. And you feel a lot of respect from her when she comes up and talks to you, and that's a great feeling when somebody like Patty Burke can come up to you and make you feel that way.

Q. I had a question about -- kind of a local question. I understand that you wrote a letter requesting that the USGA be held here at Old Waverly, and I wanted to know if that was true, and if so -- you didn't?

NANCY LOPEZ: (Shakes head no.)

Q. That was in our paper.


Q. Just your thoughts on Mississippi and how Mississippians have received you and your general thoughts.

NANCY LOPEZ: I've played here in the Palmer Charity Event and I've played a lot of golf here with George Bryant. He's with Bryant foods and Sara Lee, of course. I've played here quite a bit. It almost feels like a home course for me. But, I mean, I'm glad it's here. Everybody is so excited. It's been really fun. Coming here and seeing everybody's face and the excitement that's there, and they are just happy to see us. It just is an up week, and you feel really good, and knowing that I've played here before, I feel real comfortable. So I'm enjoying it a hundred percent.

RHONDA GLENN: Time for rehab?


RHONDA GLENN: Good luck.

End of FastScripts….

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