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June 30, 1998

Nancy Lopez


RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, we have with us Nancy Lopez, runner up last year and on three other occasions as well in the U.S. Women's Open. Nancy, it was so dramatic last year, such an emotional thing. Have you been able to put 1997 behind you?

NANCY LOPEZ: I have now. It took me about three months, though, to get over it. And, well, then I didn't cry. I guess you think about those emotions and you don't forget them. I was watching the video. I watched the video for a few months after, just kept thinking: What could I do different; what did I not do right. And the only thing that I really kind of recognized was just really my putt on 17 was where I really had to be aggressive and I had to make that putt and I left it short and it really was an easy putt. That is where I felt was the turning point for me was that putt on No. 17.

RHONDA GLENN: Does that mean you are going to be hitting your putts toward the back of the cup this year? Is that something you picked up?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, if I have a putt like that, I know I am going to think about the speed, not so much about the line, because I think sometimes when you start concentrating, you do forget about how hard to hit it. You are thinking so much about the line. And on this golf course, you are going to have the tendency to really think about the line, but then you really have to concentrate on the speed too because they are tricky, tricky greens.

RHONDA GLENN: You have played the golf course how many times now?

NANCY LOPEZ: I have played it three and a half times.

RHONDA GLENN: Explain the half.

NANCY LOPEZ: I played 9 yesterday and I played 36 holes about four weeks ago and then today I played 18.

RHONDA GLENN: And how do you like the golf course? How does it is suit your game?

NANCY LOPEZ: I love the golf course. It is very long. It suits my game in that I feel like I am a good long iron hitter and I am hitting my irons real well right now. So, I think that it is advantageous for me right now because I am hitting my irons so well. I think that is where the premium is going to be, your irons into the green for sure, and try to get it close because you don't want to be too far from the pin. If you are on the green and you are a mile away, you are not accomplishing much. You have got to get it close.

RHONDA GLENN: Betsy King was quoted as saying that Nancy Lopez never has an "Away game;" that you always have a crowd of fans on your side which the other players have adjusted to very well. How does that influence your game?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, when the crowds are out there, it just makes it real exciting. They are rooting for you and you can feel the positive vibrations coming from them even when they are not speaking. And, to me, that is what it is all about when you are out there playing is feeling what is going on in the air. And, I think it really helps me to play better when the crowds are there and they are watching you and you are really performing and trying to play the type of golf that, you know, that you want to see, but what they want to see too.

RHONDA GLENN: You had quite a crowd with you today and there was a little bit -- started to get a little bit close, didn't they?

NANCY LOPEZ: It was tight a few times. Well, most of the time. Every time I got from green to tee, there were a lot of autograph seekers and it was getting uncomfortable. I had to ask someone to help me get from green to tee because there were so many people out there and everybody wants to try and get an autograph and they think they are not going to get one, so they get right on you. And I had people stepping on me and grabbing me and it gets scary sometimes when that happens. But I just told -- I try to sign as many as I could. I had to keep going because the group behind us had to wait for us a few times because they were trying to get going and get out of the way. But I mean, I enjoy signing autographs. It is just hard sometimes when it makes it a long day when you have got to play golf and then do all that.

RHONDA GLENN: Questions.

Q. This is only your 12th event this year that you have played in. How do you feel your game is, where you'd like it to be in the Open this week?

NANCY LOPEZ: My game is -- I feel like it is where it was last year at the Open. I was hitting the ball well, was really starting to putt well. Felt real confident with my ball-striking. And I feel like I am just right where I was last year, same thing. I feel really good. I feel confident. I like the golf course. It is going to take a lot of patience. And you are going to hit shots that aren't going to be where you want them and you just have to, you know, suck it up and accept it and go on and hit the next shot. So I am really preparing myself more for that, but I know when I get on the tee, all I am going to see is the fairway and when I am in the fairway, all I am going to see is the hole because I don't want to look anywhere else.

Q. Why do you like the golf course?

NANCY LOPEZ: Every hole has a different personality. It is not a type golf course that flows from one hole to another. You remember the holes. To me, when you remember holes, it is a good golf course. When it is boring and you can't remember, it is boring. But I remembered every hole after the first day I played it when I played with Ray because we were here a few weeks ago. So to me that is a good golf course when you could remember the holes, you could remember what you did; where you want to hit your shot off the tee. And it is long. You have to hit it straight and I feel like that is my game. I can hit it long and I feel like I can hit it straight.

Q. What did you and Ray do when you were here?

NANCY LOPEZ: Can't tell you. (laughs).

Q. Why not?

NANCY LOPEZ: We don't usually get to do that, really fly off and go play a golf course. But we had a great time. He was really like my caddie and he drew the greens and we would watch the speeds and play the hole see where the best place was to hit your shots. It was a lot of fun. He didn't really get to play. He tried to play, but he ended up picking up and just kind of watching me and -- I had brought a dozen golf balls with me so we could play with them, and after the first day, we lost six - he lost six. And then I was playing three. I had three for the next day so we had to buy a dozen. They are expensive. I haven't bought golf balls in a long time. Anyway, we had a great time and the first day was really just marking off the golf course and looking at it. I didn't really get the sense how I wanted to play it 'til the next day. The next day it was really comfortable. I think the best thing for me was to just get comfortable here because it is such a tough golf course. And, I think playing the days I did, or few weeks ago and then playing yesterday and today, I am more comfortable than I have ever been going into a U.S. Open on a course this tough. Hopefully that is advantageous for me to feel comfortable because I think some U.S. Open courses get so tough you never get comfortable. So it was really a smart thing to at least come and try it, you know, week earlier.

Q. Obviously the way you lost last year, being so emotional, it had to be really hard on you. But it also had to be hard on Alison beating a sentimental favorite like you. She hasn't fared well since then. Have you talked to her recently and, if not, what you might say to her since all that happened?

NANCY LOPEZ: She played so well in that U.S. Open and she is such a great little player. I don't know why she struggled the rest of the year after that. I don't know if it is her ball-striking. I know she had had the flu like at Sara Lee and wasn't feeling well. When you don't feel well, it is hard. I am sure she has pressure from her country people because she won the U.S. Open and I think after you win the U.S. Open there is great expectations put upon you and it is not really fair. Sometimes I almost get nervous about winning a US Open because I look at the players that have won the U.S. Open and lots of times that happens - they don't do well after that for some reason. I mean, really, if we really stop and think about that, it seems like they struggle a little bit after that. But I mean, if I won the U.S. Open, I might just retire and then I won't have to struggle anymore. (laughs).

Q. With your experience at Pumpkin Ridge with the exception of not winning was a positive one, how much of that do you take into this week because it is an Open just like last year at Pumpkin Ridge?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, it was a great week for me a year ago at the U.S. Open. It motivated me to realize that I could still strike the ball the way I needed to win the U.S. Open. And I think even three or four weeks ago or the weeks leading up to this tournament, I felt a little nervous, just anticipation of the tournament coming around, but once I stepped -- I came out Sunday afternoon and chipped and putted a little bit, I wasn't nervous. I felt calm again which it was like a repeat of last year, felt real calm, real good, real comfortable, you know, it is like I felt like I am trying to repeat everything that was going on a year ago, when I showed up at Pumpkin Ridge. I feel like it is going the same way right now. I don't feel easy. I feel calm, which was really a big thing for me. I don't know in that -- I think last year I felt like it was from working out and, you know, getting rid of all the toxins in my body before I went out on the golf course by doing my cardiovascular in the morning. It just was easier for me and I just felt more calm. So I am going to keep that routine going through this week.

Q. Last year after the Open you were standing there and you said that you'd finally learned what it took to win an Open. Can you share that with us?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I think the big thing was just being prepared with my golf game more than I had been. I think there were times I thought I was prepared, but after last year realized I really wasn't prepared before that Open last year. Because the way I felt when I got there, I really felt calm. I think it was the calmness of knowing that I was hitting the ball well and playing well. Other U.S. Opens maybe I really wasn't ready. I think that is what you need to do is really, you know, don't just accept a good golf game but accept something better than that and I think that is why last year I realize what I needed when I came to the next U.S. Open. And it was more like, well, this year I have got to get to that peak right at the U.S. Open. I missed a few cuts this year. I have been experimenting with balls and just doing things I usually don't do. But Ray let me hit a lob wedge that he was playing with, and I was like, gosh, this shot is a lot easier than I thought it was. Because all these years I have been trying to hit this little soft, fluffy sand wedge out of this U.S. Open rough and I have a club that just does it really, basically, by itself. And, so I have a Nancy Lopez lob wedge in my bag now. I love it and so I am going to use it. So I'm just excited to be here and I feel real good and positive about this week.

Q. Nancy, you talked about how long it took you to get over last year and we have certainly talked about what this Championship means to you. What does it mean to you and is it possible to want something too much?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I think that I have gone through so many different feelings through the years of playing the U.S. Open. I went through years of basically choking myself when I got there because I wanted to win it so bad. Then I said: Oh, okay, it doesn't really matter if I win the U.S. Open. I am just going to play the best that I can because I was trying to take pressure off myself. Then it came to last year where my game was really good and I loved the golf course and I said: Boy, I feel good; I might be able to win this tournament. I felt really calm, but I wasn't expecting anything except to go out and hit the shots and play good golf. It was happening. So that is what I want to do this year, not put the pressure on myself to win it. I want to win it. But I want to go out there and just play golf the way I did a year ago and not worry about anything except just playing the type of golf it takes to win a US Open. And this golf course is going to take a lot, a lot of patience, probably more than any U.S. Open course I have played in a long time and it is playing long. You just have to, you know, grit your teeth and rip at it and don't see anything but the fairways and the hole. Because there is too much out there to intimidate you and you just can't pay attention to that. I'd love to win the U.S. Open. I just have to keep trying and eventually I will get too old and maybe I can't do it then after a certain time, but I still feel pretty young. I feel like I still have a chance to do that. So that is my goal is to try and do that this week.

Q. What is it specifically about this course that sets it apart from other courses?

NANCY LOPEZ: It is just -- like I said, every hole has a different personality. The driving area is not real tough. It is tough, but not real tough. But when you are hitting long irons into greens that are long and narrow and greens that, you know, kind of angle and if you don't hit at the pin you are not going to be on the green, you have got to hit a perfect club, perfect direction. And, you know, a lot of Open courses you can get away with the shot that is just a little right of the pin or a little left of the pin, but you can't do that here. You have to hit it right where you want it or you are going to be chipping and putting a lot.

Q. The fact that you came here a few weeks ago, is that an indication of how much you want to win this tournament and have you done that before in your career anywhere else?

NANCY LOPEZ: No, I don't think I have ever done it before in any U.S. Open. This was the first time that I can remember, I -- I can't ever remember making a special trip to play. Maybe, you know, it is because I would sure like to win here, but I also heard it was such a tough golf course, I figured I better come and look at it and see if I can feel good about it when I finally got here. But it is a great golf course and it is going to -- I don't know, you might see -- I don't know what you are going to see, (laughs) but hopefully you won't see me doing it (laughter).

Q. Hypothetically if you never win a US Open - and I know it is a tough question to ask as you are heading into one - but if you never win one, how will it impact your career as people look at you historically? Will it matter at all or will it --

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I think deep down inside it probably will matter to me, but I can't be selfish, really. I think I would be selfish saying that I would be unhappy not winning a U.S. Open because of not completing my career because I feel like. I have had a great life and a great career on the Tour. If I don't win a US Open I just believe that God didn't have it in his plan for me to do that. So I just have to keep trying.

RHONDA GLENN: Nancy, would you assess your career for us so far, how do you look at all that has happened to you?

NANCY LOPEZ: Gosh, well, when I try and look back at when I was just a kid, really I was really just a kid, 19 when I was 19. 19 now is a different story, I think. Coming out on the Tour and really not expecting to do much when I first came out because I felt like playing amateur golf, you work so hard to become No. 1 amateur. Then when I turned professional, I felt I had a lot of work to do to ever become No. 1 professionally. I always -- I think when I came out on Tour I was like: Well, I want to beat the JoAnne Carners and Judy Rankins and it didn't -- I didn't have any pressure on me, so, I wanted to beat them really bad. I felt like they had a lot to lose if I beat them, but I didn't have anything to lose if I shot 80. I was just somebody starting on the Tour. So I played very aggressively and I loved it. The Tour was comfortable for me. Golf was fun. Still is. The press was always really good to me and I think they probably, you know, let people know me in a way that probably wouldn't have if it wasn't written about, you know, me, people felt like whenever they walked up to me they could talk to me. I mean, I feel like I am wearing a shirt these days that says: Talk to me, because so many people come up to me and feel they know me and we have been friends. That is nice because you meet a lot of nice people that way. I thank God that I have had the career I have had because I never expected it to be what it became because it was -- the thrill of winning, every tournament was a thrill. It never gets old, winning. The pressure of going out there and having to make those 10-footers and I was trying to figure out how many seconds I had. Ray said I had like 42 2nds but I -- that might be high.

RHONDA GLENN: You have had four just in the U.S. Women's Open.

Q. How good is Ray with statistics?

NANCY LOPEZ: He is pretty good but his memory is leaving him, so I am not sure. He had said something about -- I mean -- I think I told you this story. He woke me up in the middle of the night. It was like 3:00 in the morning. He was having a kidney stone and he said, Nancy. I am like: Okay, what? I was waking up. He says: Do you know who the best player on the LPGA is? I was like: Oh, my gosh, why is he doing this to me? All right, who is the best player on the LPGA? He sat down and figured out how many tournaments the money, you know, average money, and everything, scoring average and he said: Patti Sheehan". And I thought -- I said: Why would he wake me up and say Patti Sheehan was better than his wife. He said: But you are second. (laughter). And he showed me all the stats and I went back to sleep. But I think he said 42 one time, but that might be wrong. I don't know.

Q. What journey did you make when you and Ray came here? Where did you come from?

NANCY LOPEZ: From Albany.

Q. How did you come? How much of an effort did you make, in other words?

NANCY LOPEZ: We flew on a private plane. He came to visit. It was offered to us and we had a great time. It was really nice.

Q. Who offered it to you?

NANCY LOPEZ: Mr. Kohler did. The man! (laughs).

Q. Whose idea was it?

NANCY LOPEZ: He just said if I ever want -- he had sent a message through one of the ladies if I ever wanted to come here he would send a plane to pick us up so we can get back home to see our kids. So it worked out great.

Q. Who then decided that you were going to come?

NANCY LOPEZ: I did. I just told Ray, I said: We need to go. This is an opportunity for me to go play a golf course that I really want to play and the thing about coming, you know, flying commercial is tough because flying from Albany, Georgia, it takes you four days to go somewhere instead of leaving in the morning and coming back the next day. So it was really nice to be able to do that.

RHONDA GLENN: What about the family this week? Where is everyone?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, Ray is coming this evening. And the girls went home. They were with me last week. They went home to Albany. They will be back in Toledo next week. It is just hard when they are here because I am so tired when the day is over and I feel bad if I don't spend time with them. So it is better that they just don't come to an Open because it really is pretty exhausting, every day that goes by, there is so much energy used. I know I feel it and I know Ray, sometimes he questions me and I said -- I saw the interview they did with the men this year, about pressure in the U.S. Open. And after a while, I almost started thinking it was almost me that felt it. But it was great to see that because I will say that to Ray. He says: Why is it such a big thing to you, the pressure? I don't know I can't describe it. I can't explain it. It just it happens. As soon as you come to the U.S. Open it is like, you know, it is like another world. And I think when he saw that interview with all the guys and how they expressed their feelings of pressure in the U.S. Open, you know, unless Ray or anybody what has been there, you just can't describe it. It is just there. You don't mean for it to be and you just have to overcome that feeling of pressure more than the next person. Then you are going to be a step above everybody else.

Q. How do these the greens on this course compare with other U.S. Open courses in terms of speed and undulation?

NANCY LOPEZ: They are tricky because I know today I really tried to pay attention to what I was doing on the greens and there is so many little slight movements, if you don't hit it the right speed, you are going to see putts like ten feet off-line. You will. Because you can start it where you think, but if you hit it just off speed a little bit, doesn't quite make it up that hill, you are going to be somewhere else or if you hit it too firm, you know it is going to look like you don't even know what you were doing out there. I really tried to pay attention today. It will be tough. That is why I said you have got to be close so that you have a chance or a clue what it is going to do with the speed and the break.

Q. The last four Open winners have been minus 7, minus 2, minus 8, minus 10. What is a score that you would like to have on Sunday and get in the clubhouse with that would make you feel pretty good; that you would have a shot at it?

NANCY LOPEZ: I would love even par. I think even par would be great. The wind blew today so I think that is why I said even par. If it blows like it did today, it is going to be really tough out there. Yesterday it wasn't as tough, but it was still, you know, might have shot a couple under yesterday. But today was -- definitely the wind was gusting and it was harder to decide what to hit into the greens. I tried to hit a few shots where they just landed on the green and then they didn't release because then if you carry halfway, then they kind of took off. So it was much tougher today.

Q. It is very evident that family has always been very important to you. How much longer will you play the game? It sounds like you still have the zest for the game, your game is obviously great, but how long do you foresee playing on a regular basis on the Tour?

NANCY LOPEZ: Until we sell all the Nancy Lopez golf clubs that we are making (laughs), I don't know. I feel really good physically and I think two years ago I probably would have said not much longer. But after, I started really taking care -- better care of myself, and feeling better. I have got more energy than I have ever had. So as long as I can get out there and practice and I told Tom my caddie, about nine weeks ago I had promised him I would practice four days a week when I went home. So if I practice, I think that I can still stay in there and be competitive. It is when I go home and don't practice. I have to basically start over when I come back out here and you can't do that. Or at least, to me, if I do that, I am not really satisfying what I need to do when I am on the Tour because I don't want to just play to play. I want to play really feeling like I can win. Otherwise then I really just really need to stay home and not play anymore. But I have been working on my game more and more and when I am home I play more, practice more. I am just going to keep doing that and see what happens.

Q. This U.S. Open pressure, what form does it take? When do you feel pressurized at a US Open, in what situations?

NANCY LOPEZ: Trying to think when I really felt it last year and it was -- I think the most pressure I probably felt last year was hitting my third shot into 18. Mainly because there were so much emotion going on there, the crowd and I knew that I still had a chance and the shot that I had wasn't a real easy shot. And my emotions were, you know, right there, ready to blow up, and so there was a lot of pressure on that third shot into that green.

Q. Where did it come from?

NANCY LOPEZ: The air (laughs). There was so much going on. There is so much electricity. So I'm -- I could just feel it. And I really couldn't let my emotions go. If I would have started bawling, really because you do that when you are a woman, you do it when you are happy and when you are sad, so, you know, those feelings were right there and I had to really control them. I had to really focus and get into what I was doing because I still had a lot of work to do even though it was really only two shots hopefully at that time and --

Q. I just wish could I have been out there with you and Ray.

NANCY LOPEZ: I know, you were out-of-town.

Q. Pete, Nancy has been worried for about three weeks that those greens are going to be too tough. I keep telling Pete we have got to sort them out and Nancy is going to be right up there on top.

NANCY LOPEZ: Definitely, we will sort them out with the greens, that is for sure.

Q. Assuming you win this weekend how quickly will all your fixtures in your house be replaced by Kohler?

NANCY LOPEZ: I don't know. I love flushing toilets this week, I mean, it is great.

Q. You mean all your fixture aren't already Kohler?

NANCY LOPEZ: I just redid my bathroom and I did get Kohler because this was like a year ago that I did this. See, if I would have played here, I could have called him.

Q. Must be really tacky if it is a year old.

NANCY LOPEZ: It is outdated.

Q. 1978 when you won the five in a row, what do you think of when you think of that time, when you think back on it, No. 1 and No. 2 - specific question, did you get any endorsement or anything come of that run that you had that five in a row?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, golf was really easy during that 5 in a row winning streak. Hole was big. Fairways were wide. I had never hesitated. I just kept hitting it. It was just automatic, it seemed, like for those five weeks of playing golf, it just seemed really simple.

Q. Did you get any endorsements from that run?

NANCY LOPEZ: I mean, yeah, things definitely changed after I started winning. I mean, I was doing outings for $500 on Monday because I was basically supporting myself because I didn't want my dad to have to do that. And I went from making $500 to a lot of money on Mondays and I just kept shaking my head saying: Are these people crazy? So, yeah, it definitely made a difference.

RHONDA GLENN: Nancy, thank you so much for being with us. We hope you have a great week.

End of FastScripts....

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