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November 22, 2019

Nancy Lopez

Naples, Florida

Q. Just about Mike Whan who was just in here, your thoughts on what he's done for the Tour?
NANCY LOPEZ: You know, we needed somebody desperately when Mike Whan came on board. During the time when we were struggling, a lot of sponsors talked to me, a lot of players talked to me, and I really wanted to stay neutral at that time because there was a lot of things going on. I think Mike Whan just opened the doors again for the LPGA, so I think for a moment or for a time the doors were closing in our face even with our sponsors because of the struggles that we were having with our past commissioner.

When Mike Whan came in, he was refreshing. I think the sponsors really liked him. The players, which if you can get 144 players to like one man, that's a pretty good deal. I think they just really fell in love with Mike Whan. I think he fell in love with the Tour.

I think that he realized that sometimes the door is shut on women's sports, and he wanted to make sure he kept those doors open, and I think listening to him today, it's just nice to hear him say the things that he does and what he wants to do and how he wants to keep things going and growing. It's important because as a past Tour player, the days of, wow, now it's a rookie and our purses were here and the guys were here, and I kept thinking, we're going to catch up with the guys, and we got to here and they got to there, and it was like, what happened, because I thought we were growing, and we did. We just have never caught up with the guys purse-wise.

I guess I understand why. We need that superstar that brings everybody in the gate. That may be one thing, but we have so many great players and so many stories, and life stories. It's not just about a sport.

But listening to Mike, I really -- I think the world of him. I think he's done a great job. The sponsors really felt good with him. The Tour is a family, and I think that we need to always remember that no matter what commissioner we end up with. We can't kill our sponsors asking them for money all the time because they're going to do what they can do, and it's like a charity, you fall in love with it, you donate. It's not being forced or pushed down your throat. And I think Mike, what he said today, it makes sense. He doesn't call the sponsors and say, you have to give me this much money. The sponsors do it because they love the LPGA Tour and they do what they can. If they can keep up with the purses -- I remember when I was a young player on Tour, the sponsors always wanted to have the biggest purse on the LPGA Tour, so they tried to grow their purses, and that's how our purses kind of grew. They were kind of in competition with each other.

Q. Is this a question of wanting equal pay or wanting fair pay? And in your mind what's the difference? Where you do you stand on that?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I think that we're doing the same job. We're still -- these players work really hard, and they travel, and they're never home. The PGA TOUR does the same thing. I just don't see a difference and why the purses should be that much different. But saying that, I appreciate what our sponsors do. How do we get there? I don't have an answer. But I would love to see equal pay, absolutely.

And more of just -- because we're doing the same thing. Why is it not the same?

Q. What was your first winning check and your biggest winning check?
NANCY LOPEZ: My first winning check was second place at the women's U.S. Open at Hazeltine the week before I went to qualifying school, and I believe it was $7,500, second place, and I was thrilled. I thought that was a lot of money, and I felt pretty rich at that moment.

And then probably the first tournament I won was probably total maybe $15,000 first place. That was in Sarasota, and you could probably check that, in '78. Sarasota is where I won my first tournament. But I finished second a few times before 1978 because I qualified for my card in '77. But I made more money off the golf course. The big thing was having a sponsor on my bag, representing a golf club company, and sponsorship money was important.

I look at the Symetra Tour, where back then we didn't have a Symetra Tour. If we didn't qualify for our LPGA card, we had nowhere to play. So to me the Symetra Tour keeps the Tour fresh and strong, especially with the new players that didn't quite make it. They get ready by being on the Symetra Tour. We didn't have anything to go on, these girls had to go back, find a job, try and work on their golf game. I think that probably didn't help the quality of the Tour when those players maybe got on the Tour.

So I think the Symetra Tour is a big deal for these players that can't -- sometimes there's players that have been out there way too long. Sometimes they kind of have to step back. But they have a big dream, and you want them hopefully to reach it, and some of them probably won't. But it's nice to have that Symetra Tour, and I hope they keep that Tour growing as much as they can.

Zimmer Biomet, which is one of the sponsors that I have now, has the biggest purse on the Symetra Tour, and that's been a big plus. Maybe that'll keep things going, and other sponsors will get involved because of that, also.

Q. Do you like this partnership that's potentially going to be in place between the LET and the LPGA?
NANCY LOPEZ: I think it's great. You know, they've struggled, and the Solheim Cup was a big thing for them to win, I think. Hopefully it'll open the eyes of many sponsors that they need to keep helping that Tour. And I think it's great. I think what Mike Whan said today -- it was funny, I came in just to listen to him to see what else he had to say, and it's great that that's a goal, what we're going to do, and I hope the LET would like that and that we'll keep growing together.

Q. You had obviously like one of the most unbelievable seasons ever, and we've seen other players come out here and have just these like insane out-of-body success on Tour. How hard is it to follow it up the next year?
NANCY LOPEZ: It's hard because I know my rookie year when I won nine tournaments, the press was asking me if I was going to have the sophomore slump, so pretty much they threw that right into my head, and I said, no, I'm not. So you just don't want to do that because it is, it's like the second year, are you a flash in the pan, are you just lucky, you won nine tournaments, and it was more of I was going to prove that I wasn't, and I ended up winning eight that second year, so I think I proved it at that time.

But it's hard. It's not that easy because as an amateur I worked all these years to be No. 1 amateur, and of course then you could kind of stay -- then you also are right at the top and there's nowhere else to go but down, and it's hard with the competition that you have on the LPGA Tour, it's really, really tough because these players are great players, and even to make a living out here is tougher. The purses are bigger, so you're supporting more of the Tour, but the competition is great, and for you to be able to have one great year and then have another one -- but there's a lot of players, I think, that are going to be able to do that. There's a lot of really good strong players that can win.

I think the Korean players play great. I'm excited that they're speaking English more often, which is great, because I always tell them thank you. They always fear that they're not speaking properly. I said, it's okay, we love you, we love that you're trying. And then I know I mentioned this many times, American players have to start winning more tournaments. I know when I went to Korea years ago with Seri Pak, she wanted me to go there, they don't want Nancy Lopez to win, they want Seri Pak to win. It's the same over here. I think it would be great if we could have a few more American players winning on Sunday. It would for sure keep the interest of the American population watching LPGA golf, which is very important.

Q. What is the element that's missing in the American contingent that they don't win more as a whole?
NANCY LOPEZ: I don't know. I wish I was still out here because I'd be working my butt off to try and beat them. It makes you crazy because I love the Tour, and I loved being on the LPGA Tour, and whatever it took to play better, I wanted to do that. You know, the thing is the players make so much more money than we did. We really had to play well to make a living and to keep playing and really have a successful career because it wasn't easy. You know, I might have felt like I was making a lot of money and I was, but holding on to it, making sure that I could still make money and play well, but the money really wasn't that important. It was more about the trophy for me. I wanted to win the trophy. When they stopped giving trophies I was kind of disappointed, they'd give you jewelry and stuff like that. But I loved the trophies. When I played, the press would say, the purse, how much is the purse, and I was like, I don't know, I just wanted to win, and when I got on 18 and they gave me the big check, I'm like, wow, this is great.

So it was more just about winning. I just wanted to win. I loved it. Loved hitting great shots, loved hearing the crowds cheer. So it was a wonderful time, and now watching the LPGA Tour and how much it's grown and it's just great. If we didn't have any other Tour to compare us to, we're great. And I think that they've done a great job, the players have. They get it. The commissioner definitely gets it, and so hopefully we just keep growing. I'm very proud of the Tour, like I said, and I'd like to keep seeing it grow, and purses like this I'd love to see every week. It would be awesome. And you know, keep growing the game because I do my Nancy Lopez Golf Adventures and bring a lot of women to golf, make them feel comfortable because a lot of women don't feel comfortable still on the golf course, so we're always trying to do that.

Q. Because of the higher purses since when you played, do you see maybe a limited number of players who have that same viewpoint as you where they get more comfortable with just a top 10 instead of always charging for a victory?
NANCY LOPEZ: I think it just always depends on the player, what that player has, what kind of drive she has, desire to win, because I think there's players that play, and they play and they want to play well and they want to win. Some maybe don't think they can win and they have to be more positive that they could win. So I think it's just important for all these players to always set a goal, high goal. As I talk to other players, the younger generation, set goals high. The amateurs that are always wanting us -- set goals high, be positive, think that you can do that and not think that you can't do that. I think it's so important to do that.

I don't know all the players personally and what they think and how they feel about winning and dominating. I have three daughters that I watched play sports, and I saw one that was good but she had desire so she got better because of that, and then I had another daughter that was great. She didn't want to work hard to be the best, which made me crazy. So you have all these different personalities, and what they feel about what they're doing and competition, it's all different. I see that with my three daughters as they grew up competing because at age 8 I already wanted to start winning. I wanted to win at age 8 anything I played in, and my dad gave me that opportunity.

I think every player has a different desire. I think being on the LPGA Tour was a goal, and for them to be successful, what does that mean them. Does it mean winning or just playing great, top 10 every week or whatever? I don't know those answers, but I would imagine they're not all wanting to just be the greatest champion in the world. I don't know that. But I don't think that everyone feels that way.

Can I say one thing? I want to thank Rolex for -- they're just -- I see Rolex everywhere. I don't know what we would do without Rolex. They're a great sponsor, and they've been great. I know I wanted to speak a little bit about Zimmer Biomet because they are sponsoring me now and I have two great knees, and everyone says, are you going to play in the Women's Senior Open, and I'm like, hmm, I don't know if I want to do that.

I walked 18 holes for the first time this year. Since 2002 I had no walked. I had been on a golf cart because my knees were so bad, and now I'm trying to work out, trying to get back in shape, and you never know, if I feel like I get in the kind of shape I want to do that, I might try playing in the Women's Senior Open, but I couldn't do it without my new knees. I have two new knees, and they don't hurt anymore because I hurt for many, many years. I had to learn how to walk again, walk up and down hills again, and the pain was a lot for a long time. Mentally -- I try and run down my hallway because I'm like, can I run? Because I don't remember how to.

Q. When is last event you played? What was it?
NANCY LOPEZ: I don't know. I'm going to think it was in Portland, LPGA event there. But I could be wrong. The only reason I say that is because I tell the story I was on No. 9 at Columbia Edgewater, and I was not playing a bunch then. I was kind of on and off. I missed a lot of cuts. I was just playing because the fans kept asking me to come back down, and I was standing over a putt, and I was really focused. I thought I was really focused because I was so focused as a player, never heard anything, nothing ever bothered me, and I'm standing over this putt, and I hear a Port-a-Potty door slam. Bang, and I'm like, I just heard a Port-a-Potty door slam, and I'm standing over this putt talking to myself, and I said, that's -- I'm not focused. I've lost it. I really felt like I had lost all that focus. And it really bothered me, and I said to myself over that putt, I think maybe I need to go home. So I don't know if that was the last --

Q. No Legends events?
NANCY LOPEZ: I've played a few, but I go to socialize. I just have a good time seeing the players I played against years ago because I don't work on my game at all. I just kind of play and hope I can hit a good shot. I'm trying to. It just doesn't go as good as it used to.

Q. Has it been a couple of years since a Legends event?
NANCY LOPEZ: Last year I think I played in one. Yeah, a couple.

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