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April 11, 2007

Nancy Lopez


DANA GROSS-RHODE: Thank you for coming in. We obviously have Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez with us, and you are getting ready to start your first tournament in 2007. How did the off-season go, how are you feeling about your game right now and looking forward to this week?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, it was good. I practiced and hit a lot of balls. I didn't play as much as I probably should have. You can be driving range queen any time until you take it out on the golf course. But really have been more inspired in the last year of working on my game and of course trying to get in better physical condition, because that's really what has kept me from even the years before wanting to play anymore because I just got so out of shape.
I still have a long way to go but I'm heading in a positive direction, so that's good. And I'm having fun, hitting the ball well and hitting it solidly. I think after being captain of the Solheim Cup for two years and watching those players hit the ball, I sat there so many times wishing I was back out there. And then they had a tournament in Rochester, New York with the past champions, so I had to work on my game to kind of get ready for that and I enjoyed working on my game. Then when I got there, I was really nervous, I played horrible but I had a great time. I think the nervousness that I had lost in the years before, I got that back, and I think that's what inspired me to play back out on Tour again.
I played in Toledo last year; I didn't play real well but hit some positive shots. It's been more of a comeback trail for me to really present myself to go out on the golf course, because you have an ego and you want to play great, and I'd like to be able to do that this week. I don't want to feel negative. I don't want to set my goals too high because I want to play really well and I would love to set the goals gradually because that's how I always did it.
I'm hitting the ball well and the nerves I feel a little bit and that's good, that's why I'm back. I felt, gosh, I got that nervous feeling back, because I was always nervous when I played before.
So that's why I felt like I needed to come back and see if I could try and compete, really compete with the girls. It's exciting watching the LPGA and the young players and seeing if I can do it just one more time, at least for a little bit and see what my body tells me, because that's really the toughest part is bad feet and bad knees; that's why I'm trying to get back into physical condition. I still have a ways to go and I still have 20 more pounds and that's a lot. It's going to take a lot of hard work because there's so many great players out here and to really compete with them I'm going to have to work really hard.

Q. You've been around the Tour a long time, can you just talk about how the players now maybe are more into fitness than they were? Can you tell that?
NANCY LOPEZ: I mean, definitely. I think that Annika set a standard for that, because they saw how strong she was and how she's pretty much tireless. She played a lot of golf, and when you're in that kind of shape you just don't get tired.
As I came out this week, I saw a lot of players have lost more weight, are more toned and look stronger. Morgan Pressel looks great. She's lost a lot of weight since I've seen her last. Lorena Ochoa is stronger; she looks stronger than she was before. Paula looks like she's getting in better shape. Natalie Gulbis has always worked on trying to get physically fit and looks super.
So I've seen a lot of girls that are toning and they look really strong, thinner than they were when I saw them last. So, you know, they are working on it. It takes a lot of time and a lot of discipline to get to that point.

Q. In your first years on Tour, was there much emphasis?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, we didn't have a fitness trailer. I think JoAnne Carner and I just went out and beat balls for exercise. I don't think they ever -- I don't remember ever working out. We just practiced a lot.
You know, like I said, it was not a physical fitness-type tour, and now in all athletics, I think everybody is trying to get in that really good shape, you know, hopefully without steroids and working hard on their game and eating right and exercising.
Annika is so talented, I've seen her work out in the trailer before, and for her to be able to get on her knees and stand on the ball, that's great balance. And that's all -- that's making her core so strong, and that's where you really need to be strong is the core part of your body and the balance part.
I think that, you know, the players when they go in there, they watch her and see what she does. You have to be able to play four days of really solid golf without being tired, and you play the Pro-Am and of course you play your practice round and Monday is your travel day. So stay in shape really does help you.
I know even for me when I played last year in Rochester, I just started my program of trying to get back into some kind of shape and to walk the 18 holes I played in that past champion's event was tough. I think I lost only about ten pounds there and it was tough, when you're carrying that much weight. You can't do it and feel good. The next morning, I was like, oohh, what am I doing, because everything hurt and you're tired and just pretty worn out. So physical fitness is very important.

Q. When you look at the Tour now and places that you're at and the purses and money and everything, do you reflect back on just all of the years and evolution off it and what it was when you came aboard?
NANCY LOPEZ: It's come a long way. In my rookie year I was the first to ever reach $100,000 and that was a big deal back then. I won nine tournaments that year and when I came out, I said, boy, I was born at the right time, $100,000, wow, that's a lot of money. And now I'm like, aahh, I wish I was then, here, now.
We have come a long way. I thought one day we might catch up with the guys, and we seem to still be pretty far behind, which that kind of bothers me a little bit. Because I just can't figure out where those sponsors get all that money to have PGA events and the LPGA Tour. Even though our tour has grown tremendously, I just thought we might catch up with them a little; they might slow down a little bit and we might catch up, but we really haven't done that.
I remember my rookie year, first place in the U.S. Open, let me see, I finished second to Hollis Stacy in '77, and I was second place check was 7,800 and I think she won like 15, something like that. You know, that was really pretty weak for a U.S. Open at that time. Now, of course, it's much more, but still I think it could be better still.

Q. When you look at Morgan's win and I know Meg Mallon was saying she was looking for more young American golfers to come up and take the place of herself and Betsy, and you as well, what do you think Morgan's win and younger Americans will do for the Tour?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, there's so many young ones, the strength of our tour is going to be there for a long time. We've got -- I mean, all of our top players really are under 25 years old, not excluding some of the younger players that are still young, but yet they are old compared to the 21- and 18-year-olds. We have a tour that's going to be strong for a long time with players that have talent, that have charisma, that have the looks, that have the golf game. They are just tremendous players, and there's so many of them.
A lot of them are Americans, which you know, back probably five years ago when I sat in a press conference and listened to Annika, they asked her what would be better for the LPGA Tour and she said if I was an American, and she was right. She at that time, if she would have been an American, our tour would have been even more fantastic, because she really kept us above water I think for a long time with her great game, and of course her goal of winning all the majors. She was just tremendous. Like I said, she really did keep us in the light. You know, people were writing about her, which kept the interest on the LPGA Tour.
And at that time, they were asking us, well, where are all of the American players. I was like, I don't know. What was happening, why didn't we have more American players that were great players? Well, they were all in high school and we were not paying attention to them, because it was Paula and Natalie and Christina and Morgan and all of those young American players that were there, but yet not ready for the Tour.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Stacy Prammanasudh who is probably the second-most-famous player out of the University of Tulsa. Are you familiar with her at all, and do you know much about her game and where do you think she kind of fits into that American scheme of up-and-comers?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, she's playing well and I know she was one of the 15 players that were included in most of the dinners right at the end before I chose my Solheim Cup team players. I had 15 players basically at every dinner that last month or so, and she was one of them.
She didn't have a good year the year that I chose. She was struggling that year right there at the end, and that's why I decided not to pick her. But she really has, you know, worked on her game and is developing into a really strong player. I've seen her play very well this year and last year. I think that, you know, watching her play, she's going to get better and better because she's hard-working and she's becoming more accurate and more consistent, and that's what's really going to help her more than anything.

Q. Before you came in the last two players in here were Lorena and Annika. And I said "Nancy Lopez" to both of them, and they are eyes got big. How does that make you feel?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, flattered. (Laughing) I think, you know, when I played on the LPGA Tour and played full-time, I loved the game and I tried to contribute the most that I could to the LPGA Tour to help it grow.
Annika, like I said, has done a lot for the LPGA Tour. I think Colonial was what really made Annika who she is now, because I think before she played Colonial, she was a little more introverted and didn't really -- I don't think she felt she could enjoy the walk between each shot. And at Colonial, because there was so much going on, I really truly think she believed that then that she could not be so serious 24/7 on the golf course and could still win.
I think that helped her to relax a little bit more and to enjoy the game more, and maybe even to smile a little bit more. Because I know they talk so much about her charisma and her personality because she was kind of quiet and pretty shy. I think Colonial really brought a lot of Annika out and helped her to become greater than she was because she was able to I think relax and realize she could win, even if she did not focus for a minute on the golf course and then started focusing again when she got over a shot.
I think in my career, that's what I always felt like made the longevity of my career was because I wasn't serious through every shot and every minute on the golf course. I could relax between shots, talk to my caddie and then be able to stand over the ball and focus again. You know, she's very talented and I think she realized after Colonial.
And then Lorena, she's such a great player. I think she was under pressure a lot early in her career, faltered a few times, probably felt the pressure a little bit. But when you put yourself there enough times where you're right close to the winner's circle and as good of a player as she is, you eventually know what you can accomplish and you learn your limits. I think that her maturity on the Tour -- she matured quickly after she faltered a few times. She was really able to pull herself together and then of course be Player of the Year last year.

Q. Are you aware of the sexist comments made about the Rutgers women's basketball team, and if so, do you think sexism is still a problem in sports?
NANCY LOPEZ: Do you want to ask that question differently? I'm not sure what you asked me there.

Q. Are you aware of the sexist comments made about the Rutgers' women's basketball team?
NANCY LOPEZ: No, I'm not. I have not read anything or heard anything. Who's commenting?

Q. It's all over the news.
NANCY LOPEZ: No, I have not.

Q. You, Meg, Pat, your pairing, is that comfortable? Is that a good pairing for Nancy Lopez?
NANCY LOPEZ: You know, I need that had the first round back. I needed that. I like that pairing a lot. I was real happy to hear that.
You know, I really respect both of them. They were, of course, they played on my Solheim Cup team and they were just great. Meg pulled herself together when I know she was struggling that year and she played great for me.
Then Pat, I call her one of my horses because Paula Creamer was my other horse I rode for four days or three days. They are just great players. I think it's fun I'm playing with some of my peers and the older players on Tour, even though Pat's not old and Meg's not old -- how old is Meg? 43? She's not very old -- everybody's young to me right now. So I'm definitely excited about that group, that pairing.

Q. I think statistically there could be a changing of the guard this week if Lorena wins and Annika doesn't finish high enough, there could be a flip in the World Ranking. Talking about what Annika said, if she had been an American she would have been more profoundly embraced, do you think people might root for her if she gets unseeded and becomes the sentimental favorite?
NANCY LOPEZ: I think she's developed a great fan base now even though she's not American. I think that she has a lot of American fans. Because she has class and she has a great golf game and a lot of style, and I think that she has definitely won a lot of hearts of Americans that watch her play now.
I'm sure Lorena Ochoa being from México, people are still trying to know who she. A lot of people ask me, are Lorena and I -- because I don't really know her, but I think they know Annika now and really feel comfortable rooting for her, and I don't think they really look at her as a foreigner anymore. Lorena is still a foreigner now, even though people, like I said, they are trying to get to know her. She's super and she's really a nice girl and great competitor. So I think that -- I'm sure people will root for Annika to stay in that ranking as being No. 1.

Q. Since you've announced your mini-comeback, what reaction have you got from younger players and veterans?
NANCY LOPEZ: Great. I mean, everybody has been super. It's been fun to see. A lot of my fellow professionals -- I think I miss that more than anything when I wasn't playing, was just being with the tour players and the camaraderie of being in the locker room and telling dirty jokes and laughing and eating together and just having fun. To me, the LPGA has always been my second family and I've always enjoyed being a part of the Tour.
I respect my tour. I think it's a great tour. Some days I get a little angry because I don't feel like we get the attention we deserve because we have some of the best athletes in golf. There's days I just -- I mean, when I see women's volleyball on the beach on television and not golf, that bothers me for some reason, because we just have so much talent, and it should be shown and people should be able to enjoy watching the LPGA Tour every weekend, because it's just that great.
So, you know, I'm a little prejudiced in that I love my tour and I want us to be shown all the time.

Q. In women's volleyball they are wearing bathing suits -- (Laughter).
NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, but Natalie Gulbis looks really good in the calendar -- I think it's great.
I think when Jan Stephenson was the sweater girl of the LPGA Tour, I really think there was a lot of jealousy, but there shouldn't have been. Because we're women, and I think that if you're sexy, you should show that. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I think when she was in the picture on the bed, I don't know if y'all remember that and the picture in the golf balls, I thought it was great.
But you know, I think a lot of players were a little intimidated by that, but I thought it was great. It brought attention to our tour, and there's nothing wrong with that. Women that have that look, is good. I keep teasing Paula Creamer, I said, "Well, if I lose 20 more pounds I might be able to wear a skirt like you do."
She goes, "You can, you have decent legs." (Laughing) I don't think there's anything wrong with being sexy and feminine on the women's tour.

Q. There's been talk a couple of years ago about you perhaps becoming the first female member of Augusta National. Has there been any discussions with that, and would you still like that to happen?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I would definitely love that to happen. I talked to Hootie, I told him, I won't come to any meetings if they didn't want a woman at them; I'd stay away. (Laughing) I really supported Hootie Johnson, because I think when they asked me the question about being a member, it never came into my mind about ever thinking about being a member, the first female member at Augusta. I never thought about that.
I think that Martha (Burke), it would have affected people more if it was someone that wanted to be the member, not really someone that was, you know, representing women. I think if there was a female that wanted to be a member, and was fighting for that position, it might have been more effective.
But, you know, I told Hootie, if he ever wanted to have a female member, that I was available, and that I was Mexican-American and that he would kill two birds with one stone. (Laughter.) I said, you know, I'd like to be the first member.
But there's so much tradition at Augusta and I think, you know, if I would have had the same opportunity that he did and of course all of the men put all of their time into Augusta and spending all their money, and I had a bunch of women that did the same thing, it would be kind of strange for a man to be a member there. It's just the table turns.
I just sometimes, I believe that women should have opportunities the same as men, but we have to be careful not to step too far into that, because I don't want -- and we won't probably, we won't probably never have a man playing on our tour because we have that rule that you have to be female-born to play. And the men's tour never had that, that they had to be male-born to play and they can never change it now because they messed up I think a little bit. You know, that's just the way I feel about that.

Q. Tiger obviously had a huge financial impact on the PGA TOUR. Can you think of any ladies that are currently playing on the LPGA Tour that can possibly have that same effect for the LPGA if they have some success?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I mean, I think Annika has done that. I think that Paula Creamer --

Q. To the level that you were thinking, to catch up with the PGA TOUR.
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, we've got lots of players like that to me, and for a long time, because they are so young. I mean, we have a strong tour that can be strong for 20 years, at least, with the players that are out there because they are so young. They are not going to get worse. They are going to get better, and the competition is going to be head-to-head every week. I think that's what makes it so exciting.

Q. You said before that you thought the PGA TOUR made a bit of a mistake in not putting male-born in there; do you think women should be playing on the PGA TOUR?
NANCY LOPEZ: On the PGA TOUR? I don't think it's a mistake. The only person that's playing there right now is Michelle Wie. I just think the respect that I've always had for the PGA TOUR and I was always taught that if you had a tour to play on, because when I played on the boys' golf team in high school, I was only allowed to play because there was no girls' golf team.
Well, Michelle has a team to play with, the LPGA Tour. And I want her on our tour. I'm a little selfish; I think that if she plays with us, we will have more people out here than even we have now. When she's on the men's tour, she brings a lot of people out to watch her.
I sometimes struggle because she's such a great player, and I would rather her set her goal to be the best player on the women's tour than setting her goal to make the cut on the PGA TOUR. She's just such a great player and super person. It's just I would like to see her out here week-in and week-out trying to beat the women on the LPGA Tour because she's so talented.
And then when she gets bored of beating all of us her, then she should try the men's tour but right now I think she should be out here developing her game and getting comfortable with that.

Q. On the golf course, what could constitute a successful 2007 for you?
NANCY LOPEZ: I just want to feel like I really worked hard and really competed, and really was close to being -- you know, this week, like I said I want to set my goals high but I don't want to be unrealistic.
I think when I broke my toe last week, that kind of disappointed me because I couldn't practice. I had been practicing and then I couldn't and I had taken my clubs, it was for spring break, with my daughter, Torri, and when I broke my toe on Monday, I couldn't do anything. I could barely walk. That put me back to be in the better position here this week with a better golf game.
I would really like to finish high, how high I don't know, but I would like to finish in the Top-10 at least a couple of times in the first few tournaments I play in after this one. You know, my goal is that. That might be a high goal and I might not really get close to it. But I think after this week, I can really feel that way and set those goals.
You know, I don't hit it as far as I used to but, working on hitting down the middle and hitting a lot of greens. My putting stroke is still there, so if I give myself some opportunities, I can make some birdies.

Q. How did you break the toe?
NANCY LOPEZ: I ran into some wrought-iron furniture that was on our porch. And it's this toe -- see I have long, really long toes, so they hurt more. (Laughter) But this second one, I taped them together, it's really fat and shorter than it was. It didn't hurt to swing because I push off from the inside but when I walk it hurts and gets pretty sore eventually during the day.
But otherwise, I feel pretty good. I walked 18 today and I didn't feel real tired, which was good. But, you know, I've lost 37 pounds, so I'm a little bit -- I'm carrying less. I still have 20 more to go, though, and that's going to be tough I think to get off. But that's my goal. Maybe it will take me about a year to do that, but try to get in better shape so that when I'm playing, I'm like Annika and I'm not tired.
DANA GROSS-RHODE: Nancy, thank you for coming in and good luck this week.

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