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July 2, 2002

Nancy Lopez


MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, it's always a pleasure to see all of our players. I don't know, maybe because I've been around for a long time. Since the beginning of this career, it's always a very special pleasure to see Ms. Nancy Lopez, who this year received a special exemption to play in this championship because the women's champion of the United States Golf Association believed it was a tribute for all she has done, not just for the LPGA and professional golf, but for all of women's golf around the world.

Nancy, congratulations. We're real glad you're here.

NANCY LOPEZ: I'm real glad to be here, too.

MODERATOR: How glad are you? What's it feel like to be back at your national championship?

NANCY LOPEZ: Real thrilled. I really didn't think I was going to get an exemption, so I was going to be with Ray in Cincinnati. The girls got there today, and when they called they to see if I would like to play in the U.S. Open, so Ray is just going to have to be second this week again.

I'm thrilled to be here. The golf course is beautiful, very tough. Probably one of the toughest Open courses I have seen in awhile. Yesterday the weather was not too bad. We got onto the second green, which was very undulating, and we had a good time on it.

It's funny because when you play golf, and you get on a hole you have a little fear on, I practice from the biggest fear point I would have on that green, and I was like leaning back when I was walking up to the putt.

But the golf course is beautiful. I played a little more today. I didn't finish my whole back side because it was raining so much. But I love the golf course. Two is the only one I had trouble with. The other ones, I could read more and stroke better.

MODERATOR: We know putting has been a superior part of your game.

Nancy, by the way, doesn't have a cold; she's having allergy problems. Before I continue, though, there is someone I'd like to introduce Ayako Okamoto. Would you stand up, please. She was in a playoff for the 1987 Women's Championship with Laura Davies and JoAnne Carner, certainly one of the greatest players ever produced by Japan and with the LPGA. Glad you're here.

Let's go to questions for Nancy.

NANCY LOPEZ: I have a story first about Ayako, if I could tell this. She might remember, but Ashley was just a little girl, and I asked her who her favorite player was, and I didn't know that she knew any of the players except her mom, and she said -- i think she was probably three and a half, four. I said, "Who's your favorite player on the LPGA Tour?" And she says, "Ayako Okamoto," and she says, "You're second, Mom. And if Aunt Kay was on the LPGA Tour, she'd be third. And then you sent her those head covers, and she got a thrill out of that.

MODERATOR: Questions for Nancy?

Q. Do you read Sports Illustrated?

NANCY LOPEZ: Do I read Sports Illustrated? Sometimes. I don't read a lot. I don't have time to.

Q. Last weeks's Golf Plus article, someone called the LPGA's decision -- Jan Stevenson criticized the decision of the LPGA. Do you have a reaction to that?

NANCY LOPEZ: I did not read it, but she told me what was said. She said she wasn't attacking me; she was just trying to make a point.

And I didn't even read it. I didn't know what she was talking about. And it's so weird that it happened because I think she thought I was calling her last week about that comment because there is a lady in the locker room named Jan who cuts our hair.

So I told the lady in the locker room to please tell Jan to call me because I needed my hair cut, so I think she meant Jan Stevenson, so she put a note on my locker, she left a message, so I think she thought I was calling her because of that, and I said, "No. I was calling Jan, the lady who cuts my hair."

So she kind of confessed the whole article. And I didn't know about the article, so it's kind of weird that it happened that way.

Q. Nancy, just curious to know, you've meant so much to the game of golf, and as your career winds down, perhaps this may be your last Open. Is there a sense of sadness among you looking back?

NANCY LOPEZ: Of course there is. Golf has been my life since I was eight years old, and competitive golf has been my life since I was eight years old. It's hard to get old and play. Forty-five isn't that old; but when you've tried to be the best, and worked, and practiced, and, you know, your knees don't feel as good as they used to -- they feel good now. I have felt real good with my knee since I've been using the Sinivest [ph], which has helped.

But when you get up in the morning and don't feel good any more, it's really hard when you're used to playing the type of golf that you can play to win. It's hard to settle for just playing and just trying to stay out here.

I think if I divorced my family and just played golf, I could probably get back into that kind of shape. I would still probably have those aches and pains, but it would be very difficult. And I see that if I'm going to be away from my family, I want to play my best golf. And I haven't been able to do that. And I haven't been able to give my golf the attention that it needs, but if I did that, I would have to pretty much leave my family to just be out here playing golf, and I just can't do that anymore.

And, of course, it makes me very sad because I'd like to keep playing. But if you can't be in the Top 10 and you can't be in the Top 5, and you can't win -- I hate to use the word "can't," but I have to be realistic that, you know, it's disappointing because I think the feeling of winning is the feeling that I wish everyone could experience because it's the most wonderful feeling that you can ever have as a professional athlete, or even as an amateur, or whatever role you play in any sport that you're in.

So when you're just playing and you really don't feel like you can reach that, it's sad.

So with that, I mean, I would play golf forever competitively but -- and people would see me shooting 80s all the time, but that doesn't make me happy anymore. I need to be with my family now. And I'm just -- i feel like I'm wasting my time away from them when I can't perform the way that I'd like to out here, and not sharing my time with them at home. But I love this game, and I will still be around.

And, hopefully, when I do play next year, I'll be prepared and I will work hard to play well in the tournaments I play in because I still plan on playing four or five, whatever I feel like playing, and nothing that really will interrupt my family life, because I missed many dance recitals, basketball games, state tournaments, being with my husband. I've missed a lot of things in the last 25 years. I don't regret it. I've loved it. I've enjoyed it. And I've been able to be with my family. Thank God, because I've been able to bring them with me also.

But it just gets very conflicting in my heart and mind what I needed to do. Ray didn't really even know I was going to have a farewell tour this year because I really had thought and thought and thought, and I said "I just can't dedicate my life to golf the way I did."

And I hate missing cuts, and I hate not playing well, and I hate not playing that shot that I used to be able to hit right where I wanted to.

So I just always used to sit back and watch Arnold and Jack and anybody else that was getting older and say, "Why don't they quit, because they are not playing the type golf I know they want to play?"

So I asked myself that question, when do you know to stop? And in my heart I just felt it was time.

Q. Nancy, do you view this week, then, as kind of a ceremonial-type thing, or do you think you can string four days together?

NANCY LOPEZ: I'm hitting my driver, finally, in the fairway. I have been all over the fairway for the past year and a half trying to find a driver that I hit longer than the driver I was hitting straight, because I -- my husband is -- he's -- he intimidates me a lot when I'm playing because when he watches me, he gets really aggravated that these young girls are knocking it by me so far, because I used to be one of the long hitter's on tour.

So he said to me, "Honey, I know you can get a driver, especially with everything they have out there to make the driver to hit it as far as the other girls." And I said, "You know, you're right. I think I can."

So I started searching for a driver, and I started over-swinging, and I started everything bad. My tempo was bad because I was swinging drivers that weren't really right for me -- i could hit them straight on the driving range because I could adjust, but what was happening is, after I hit the driver, I'd go to my iron, and the tempo wasn't right for my iron, so it was everywhere, too.

I went to see Dave Pelz the morning after Rochester. He knows how to get you out of something that's a bad habit. He said "We'll find a driver that you can hit." And we did. But I decided just to go back to my old driver that I had in my bag a year and a half ago that I know goes straight, and when I miss it, it doesn't go too far off, and play with it.

This whole year I've been in the rough -- the roughs now are so high for us. They don't make them short anymore, and you can't make par, and you certainly a can't make birdie, and bogie, bogie, no birdies. Ray asked me, "What's wrong, Honey?"

I said, "I don't know, but you got to come out and watch it because I don't know what's happening." My tempo got so off with every driver I was trying to hit that I eventually couldn't hit my irons straight either. He went to see him. He had a little trick and I got my tempo back with my irons.

I'm doing well with that, and I am putting better than I have the last year and a half. I think good things will happen, so I'm looking forward to playing this year. I'm very motivated to play the best I can play. You never know, there might be some magic.

Q. What was the little trick?

NANCY LOPEZ: What he did, he told me to hit my favorite club, which used to be my driver, but now is my 5-iron. And I had six balls. And what he said -- he said, "When you hit this ball, tell me how it feels." And what he did, he put a little white sign on the end of a stick, and when I hit, he wouldn't let me look up and see where the ball was going, so I would hit and he would cover my vision.

Because if I was hitting it right and I saw it go right, of course next I'm going to try to make it hit left, or straighten it up, next shot, good.

And he had a gentleman that was helping him chart my shots. I had a 150-yard marker I was aimed at. He said, "What's your next favorite club?" I said 3-wood; same tempo. And I would hit and say, "That felt good." But he didn't let me see it. "That felt good."

As soon as I swung through, he'd cover my vision. Then I brought out the driver I'd been hitting, and I hit it, and he'd cover my vision. I'd say, "That felt good. That felt good."

Then they showed me the chart. All my 5-irons were dead right, they didn't slice, cut, nothing; dead right; my 3-wood, dead right, straight, and my driver was hooking. And I kept saying it felt good. So the driver was not right for my tempo because those irons that I'm hitting, I feel good with them. I hit them well.

And the tempo is good, because I had been blocking the driver to hit it straight, I was blocking my irons and everything else to hit them right, and I couldn't figure out what was going on. It was just all tempo.

Q. This is a few months old, but I was wondering your thoughts on the commissioner's strategic plan, and do you see it as something picking up on work that you did over the course of your career?

NANCY LOPEZ: I think that the player summit was great. I think we needed that. I think we needed it more for a bonding of the Tour. If anything came out of it, I felt we got a lot from just being together and getting to know players we didn't really know.

But I think a strategic plan of Fans First. I've known that since I came out on the Tour because they are the ones that pay our bills. They are the ones that pay our tickets and come in to watch us play. They are the ones that buy the magazines. The fans are the ones that support professional everything. I think that the LPGA did a great job in presenting it to the players in a way that they really saw the light and what was going to help LPGA golf become more popular and more successful.

They showed us what NASCAR had done and how far back they were just a few years ago. Now, because they let the fans come down where they are, they mingle with them, we're able to do it. Baseball players can't do it, neither can football players.

But we're so accessible to everybody. We should have had this a long time ago, where fans knew they could come up and ask for autographs. It has to be the attitude of the player because she has to be able to sign an autograph and look at somebody and say, "Thank you for being here."

People flock to you if they know you are approachable, they will come right to you. If they maybe had a bad experience with you, or aren't sure how you're going to react, they stay away, and one player just being ugly to one fan turns off ten fans, because I guarantee that fan is going to go say something to a friend or another fan, or "Don't go ask her for an autograph."

So they just have to realize that that's what you have to do. And as I told the players on the Tour, we're fans. I'm a fan, and if I wasn't Nancy Lopez, I couldn't walk up to Charles Barkley or any professional agency and say "I'm Nancy Lopez, I play on the LPGA Tour. I want the respect from those athletes, even if I wasn't Nancy Lopez, to get an autograph and have a friendly talk with them, and not bother them, knowing they are doing their job.

It's important for all athletes to know the fans are the ones that keep us out here. Without the fans, the sponsors aren't going to want to have a tournament. They are saying, "What does it do for us? Nothing."

If they don't bring the fans out, it's just a circle; one thing leads to another.

Q. Just a quick follow up. Obviously, a lot of the burden will fall on the shoulders of the top players, and as far as certain players being engaging, some players are naturally introverted or more shy. Is it fair to criticize those players if that's just their nature?

NANCY LOPEZ: If they are shy?

Q. If they are not as engaging as other players, as you, for instance, is it fair to criticize them if they are naturally more introverted?

NANCY LOPEZ: No. I think you can be shy, and I think people realize that, but you can be nice. It doesn't matter what kind of personality you have, you can still be nice to people. And that's where you can't bring personality into it in that respect. I think you're just nice to human beings and you appreciate that they are there, and I think the players have been a lot better -- not that they were horrible, but I see a lot more giving than I see taking, and I think that's just real important.

Q. I wondered if everybody has expected you for 25 years to be the nicest person in the world. I wonder if there has ever been a tournament or time period where it was hard for you to be the Nancy Lopez that everybody expects you to be.

NANCY LOPEZ: There's times I walked off the golf course and I didn't want to see anybody ask me for an autograph. I mean, I felt that way. Sure, it's easy to want to sign autographs when you're playing good, but I think even if I wasn't a professional golfer, I think a person that's a true champion can sign autographs when they shoot horrible scores.

And I think that's the toughest thing when you can be the same, whether you've played poorly -- because when you play well, it's so easy, and when you don't, it is more difficult, but you know when I walk away from there, and the fans are there, and they appreciate you no matter what you do, it makes it a lot better. I mean, the whole day is a lot better.

If you really give of yourself and you walk away and someone says "Nancy, I love you," it's worth that for me, and it makes me feel better, instead of walking away in a depressed state because I played so poor.

Fans make you feel better, and I've told the players that too, you know, use the fans for your advantage, because there's sometimes I have seen fans clap for a bad shot. It might be their first time there, they don't know any better, but they are trying to be there to support you, so you just accept that they don't know better.

Because I know fans wouldn't intentionally clap when you hit a poor shot. I had a gentleman after -- in Chicago, after Torri's puppy fell off the cart and got killed -- that came up to me the next day and said -- there were a lot of animal lovers out there, and he said, "Nancy I don't know anything about golf, I've never watched golf. But after I read that story, I had to come and watch you play."

I thought that was neat. Everybody commented about the dog; they didn't comment about my golf. They felt sorry for Torri and the puppy. It was a human story they could probably relate to, something happened to them like that, so I brought another fan to golf just because of the puppy and telling that story.

I enjoyed sharing it because I think the press -- i've always shared a lot of my thoughts with the press because it's in my heart to do that because they've always been very supportive of my feelings, and I thought it was something I wanted to tell them.

I really thought about flying home Wednesday night after it happened. That goes back to why I'm leaving the Tour, because I really should have flown home to be with Torri, and fortunately, for me, I asked if I needed to come home -- and she said "no," by the way. If she would have said yes I would have gone home.

Q. Nancy, talking about your fans, I'm curious, have you had to sacrifice your ability to make cuts, or even to contend this year to do the things that you have to do for the Farewell Tour?

NANCY LOPEZ: That's it. I missed all the cuts because I've been so busy. It probably has affected me a little bit. But, no, it doesn't affect me when I'm on the golf course because usually -- i probably haven't practiced as much maybe because I've been so busy doing other things. I should have been on the driving range a few more times. It affected me a little bit.

That's why I announced that it was a Farewell Tour, so I could spend time with people and say good-bye, and just do whatever I had to do. I've missed every cut, but it doesn't really bother me. I'd like to play good, but I don't walk away saying I didn't get anything out of that tournament. I walk away saying I did what I wanted to; I saw people I wasn't going to see anymore; and it meant a lot to me to just be there.

Q. Every week there is Nancy Lopez Appreciation Week, and you're getting choked up. Did you expect it to be this emotional? Is it taking a toll on your game?

NANCY LOPEZ: I'm emotional anyway, but it's been hard this year. It started when Ashley started her senior year, because she's graduated and she's going to go off, and then my dad died, and that's been real tough. Just the other day I was going to call him. I forgot he wasn't around anymore.

Before the U.S. Open I always called him the day before I left, and then Ray being in Cincinnati has been tough because he's not really there, and then the Farewell Tour, saying good-bye to everybody, it's been really tough but, you know, I just -- i'm glad that I can experience this, though.

Because I've appreciated my life out here, and it's going to be tough. When I play that last tournament this year, it will be very, very tough. And I do get emotional because I just care about so many things and I want to teach my daughters to do the same.

Because I always just want people to know how much I appreciate them and how my life on the Tour has been so special because of people, and all the people, and letters, and letters of admiration that made me feel really good when I was down sometimes, so it's been a great year, too, except for all the tears, because I do get very emotional. And I cry a lot.

But, you know, I just -- i just love the fans and the press. The press -- you know, I keep leaving the press out, but they've really let everybody know Nancy Lopez by writing their stories, and when people really see you in the paper and on television, they've gotten to know me through the press and what they've written.

Q. You know, we thought Patty Berg retired 40 years ago, and she was out here yesterday at the age of 84, and there must have been almost 50 people watching her. I know you're a great fan of hers.


Q. I don't think Nancy Lopez is going to disappear from golf. I'm sure you'll be making appearances for a long time.

NANCY LOPEZ: I will. I'll be around for a little while. There's so much more I can do now, even if I don't play golf every week, but spending time and doing charity things, and still coming to some tournaments and bugging the players for a little while longer, but, you know, whatever is asked of me, I will certainly try and do those things still because, I mean, golf is something you can do forever. You can see Patty, how she is. And I love Patty Berg. She is just the neatest lady, and has made me very proud to be an LPGA member, because she has sure been an inspiration, I think, for a lot of players on the Tour, because she just never stops, and she is always so positive, and she motivates you. Just when you're around her, you get this great feeling that you can go out and do anything once you talk to her.

She loves baseball. She always asks me about Ray. So I thank God for Patty Berg, too, because she is a special lady.

Q. What's been your most memorable U.S. Open moment? Was it '97 or was it -- i mean, have you thought about that coming into this week?

NANCY LOPEZ: Most memorable U.S. Open? Well, the first U.S. Open -- you have to say the four that I finished second in -- the first U.S. Open that I finished second in was in Atlantic City and I was thrilled because I got to play with JoAnne Carner, who was my idol back then, and she cut the ball, and I did, too, so I thought I was really special. She just cut that ball, and I said, "I hit it just like JoAnne Carner." That was a great experience for me.

And then let me see, the next one was -- was it Hazeltine? Hazeltine was an experience. I played with, I guess, Hollis Stacy, and I know you know my zipper busted that year in the final round while I was playing with Hollis, and everybody was handing me safety pins, and I could not keep my pants together. I could not concentrate. It was just horrible. So I remember that one because of that.

Then the third one was --

Q. It was Indianwood, wasn't it, the third place?

NANCY LOPEZ: I don't remember that one. I don't know why. I'm having a senior moment. I don't remember Indianwood for some reason. But, anyway, then the last one, when I finished second at Alison Nicholas, that was my most memorable because on Sunday I knew that U.S. Open was going to be mine. I just felt it. Everything was so positive. I felt great, I was hitting the ball well, I was in great shape, I was taller than Alison, and I felt like I was going to be able to beat her.

And I was hitting great shots, and she would hit one better than me, and even when I was coming on 18, and I was one shot behind. I knew for sure I was going to tie her, and we'd have to play an 18-hole playoff the next day, but I played so well, and I felt so good, and I think that was probably my most memorable because it was the hardest tournament I ever had to get over for a second place finish.

It was very tough; I cried for months about it. When someone would ask about it I'd cry about it, because I was so disappointed that I didn't win it. But it was a great U.S. Open. Alison played great. And it was the type of U.S. Open that if I would have won would have been the greatest win for me in a U.S. Open because of the competition the way that it was, and how good I was going to have to play, because she was very, very tough that day.

So I guess that one was probably my most memorable because I really thought I was going to be able to win it.

Q. Some of you will remember, too, that Nancy shot four rounds in the 60s that particular week, the only person who has ever done that and still came up one short.

That was my question. Is this week bittersweet because you know it's the end of your career and this one has alluded you? Do you say "Golly, do I wish I had this trophy in my house?"

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, this is a terrible question to you guys, but the gentleman that just passed away from the PGA Tour, Sam Snead -- I went blank, I'm having senior moments -- when he passed away, I was very sad because I got to meet Sam Snead and when they were talking about his golf and what he had done. He's finished second in the U.S. Open four times and never won it, and I said "Darn, when I die they are going to say I finished second in the U.S. Open four times and never won it," and it bothered me more then than it ever has.

I think winning the U.S. Open would have been a thrill for me -- the thrill of my career, because I haven't won the U.S. Open. I can't say that, you know, it's disappointed me in that it's hurt my career at all. I would love to have won it, but I truly believe that God has a plan for you, and if you're not meant to win the U.S. Open, you're not going to win it no matter how hard you try.

I told you, if I would have won the U.S. Open any time, I would have brought my sleeping bag and camped out on 18 and stayed there all night long. Maybe some of the fans would have stayed with me. Who knows? I swore I would do that.

Unfortunately, I never did, but I hate that I didn't win one, but I can't say it's going to make me feel like I didn't do what I want to do out here.

Q. Nancy, a lot of people in different sports have made almost a second career out of, not just broadcasting, but being a spokesperson, a voice of experience. Martina Navritalova [ph] is doing that in tennis, Joe Morgan has made a career of that. I wonder if you see that as a role, not just as a broadcaster, but as a presence in the game.

NANCY LOPEZ: I will always promote and speak highly of the LPGA Tour because I have had 25 great years out here and I've loved being out here. I wish that I could know every player better than I do know them now as I leave the Tour. I feel like I can say that I've been friends with all the players that I've known out here, and I will certainly always speak highly of the LPGA and always be there for them if they need me to do anything I can, as long as it doesn't interfere with my family life.

Because this is my family, the LPGA Tour is my family also. And I will always stand by their side whenever they need me for that. I don't just want to walk away and leave totally, so I will always be an LPGA player, whether I'm playing on the Tour or not. I will still be a member of the Hall of Fame, and I will be very proud of all those things.

Q. Nancy, your college coach, Dale McNamara, has talked about your attitude at the LPGA level. It reminds you so much of what Tiger Woods has done. Tiger doesn't do a lot of charity things, he does one thing, and that is winning major golf championships. Ever in the back of your mind in the years to come, will you think, "Gosh, what would I have done if I put the family aside, and do what Tiger has done? And that is focus for long periods of time on your game, and that's it.

NANCY LOPEZ: I would hope I would have been able to win more tournaments if I focused totally, but I wouldn't give up any family time that I had, though, for one more tournament win, I just wouldn't. I mean, I have enjoyed so much the wins I've had. Certainly I can say really and truly in my heart, I could have won many more if I could have been focused totally on that.

But, you know, there's other things to life than just a game, really, and -- or a job, or whatever, but family, to me, has always been very important, and I am just glad I could experience -- i'm glad I could win during all that stuff that was going on, all the babies and all the sicknesses and all that stuff that was going on, I was glad I could experience it. I'm very blessed. I'm happy I was a part of -- i guess I always ask myself: Why did God put me here?

And I really think he put me here to entertain, to entertain people, and to hopefully give glory to His name, which is very important to me also.

So what's funny to me is one time someone from the press asked me how many times I finished second, and I said "Gosh, I don't know, 10 times, 11 times." And I finished second 48 times. So it's true, they don't remember who finishes second because I don't even remember who finishes second.

So I think if I didn't have to change one more diaper, I would have won at least one more of those.

Q. Nancy, I wonder, the first time you heard someone make reference to you being the Arnold Palmer of the LPGA Tour, what your reaction was, and how long ago was it, and what do you remember, and how did it make you feel?

NANCY LOPEZ: It was probably early in my career when I heard that statement made to me for the first time, and I always thought Arnold Palmer was really neat -- i had not met him early in my career -- I had not met him, and when they said that, I was very honored they would think I was the Arnold Palmer of the Ladies Tour, because I thought so much of him when I first came out here and watched him as an amateur.

I know how much he meant to the Men's Tour, and I was very thrilled that someone would think that.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Nancy Lopez, thank you for everything, Nancy. I sincerely mean that. Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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