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August 29, 2007

Nancy Lopez


ASHLEY CUSHMAN: Nancy, thanks for chatting with us today. You had a hot afternoon in the Pro-Am. This is your fifth start in the season at the State Farm Classic. And you played in Portland last week. Do you want to talk about your season so far?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, it's been kind of lousy. I was hoping to play a little bit better, but I think I started this year off hoping that my scores would be lower and I would hit the ball a lot better. But it's been a lot tougher coming back than I thought. It's almost like starting over. I had not played a lot in the last five years, and coming back into competition, and the only way you can really get better is by playing with your best competition.
And unfortunately, you know, my golf game has been really rusty. My putting and chipping is still good, thank goodness, but have shot a lot of high numbers and wasn't really happy with that. But I've had the desire to go back and work on my swing and probably take a lesson and work on things that I started picking up, just bad habits right at the beginning of the season I started doing that, because I never really have had a teacher. My dad was my only teacher. I picked up a lot of bad habits at the beginning trying to really start playing by myself without another eyes watching me.
So then after trying to play with those bad habits, then once I found out what my bad habits were, just trying to get rid of those and that's why it's been such a struggle to get the ball where I wanted it to. I always used to hit the ball really straight and now I'm having a difficult time keeping it in the fairway which makes it difficult to score well.
But I have been having a great time playing. Every time I step over a shot, I'm working really hard trying to hit it and concentrating and focusing. That's what it was about for me before, but I lost a lot of desire five years ago when I had my farewell tour but now that desire is back. I just have to keep working hard. I'm going to see probably a lot of bad shots before I see a lot of consistent shots, and that's what I'm working on right now is to hit a more consistent shot every time I play.

Q. I think I read somewhere earlier this year, you talked about when you wanted to make a come back, or maybe over the years you had maybe talked to Arnold Palmer and a few others who played out there. What type of advice did you look for for somebody like Arnie about how long do you want to stay out there, how do you handle it coming back?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I know there were a lot of times I think when I watched Arnold and Jack playing and I would ask myself, you know, when are they going to stop playing because I know that they were not able to really do what they could do when they were younger.
And I know I see Arnold quite a bit and he gets real frustrated, because he wants to hit the ball as far as he used to; he can't. You know, I just say: "Arnold, don't be so hard on yourself. You did so much for men's golf -- or for golf." And you know, I know what it's like because now that I'm not a long hitter anymore. It's really difficult for the ego not be able to hit the ball like that anymore.
I think my big thing this year was to see if my body could withstand playing. Last week I played in Portland. I played really, really bad on Saturday. But I never gave up. I just kept hitting it wherever I could hit it and go find it and hit it again. It took a toll on me a little bit because I know my body is a little more sore this week.
This year is more of trying to see if I can still do it physically. I know my mind says I can; I just want to know if my body will let me. I have a lot of trouble with my feet which really makes me uncomfortable because once I start find of favoring my feet when I'm walking; then my knees get a little sore and my hips get sore and I go to bed pretty miserable at night. Right now I'm icing my feet and knees and probably just need to get into a tub of ice and I would feel great. (Laughing)
But, you know, I don't like to make excuses. I know I'm hurting, but if I want to play well -- like my husband always says, "You're just going to have to deal with it." So that's what I'm trying to do now.
This will be my last tournament this year and I'm going to go ahead and try to work on my game and find someone who can really help me work on my game and get back into good habits, and then next year come out and try again with hopefully a stronger and better golf game than I had this year for sure.

Q. What have the fans been like?
NANCY LOPEZ: They have been great. They always say, "we don't care what you shoot," but I'm like, "I do."
They just say, "We just love seeing you back out."
You know, I love it, it's nice to see the support. And no matter how poorly I played, I always feel they are watching.
But you know, you have to go out there and I hope that when I'm playing and not playing well, that when they look at me, they really don't know I'm not playing well because I think my role model was always JoAnne Carner. When she wasn't playing well, you never knew she wasn't playing well. I don't slam clubs and I don't act like I'm don't care and I don't get up to putts just to putt them; I take my time over every shot like I'm trying to win the tournament.
I think that's what keeps the fans there is I know when I played with players that are not happy that they are playing poorly, they kind of give up and, you know, watching that just disappoints me. I try not to do that especially when I'm having a bad round. I just keep trying because I know my bad would want me to do that, keep swinging, and hopefully I'll start getting the tempo correct and getting that swing back in shape and start seeing those balls go where I want them to goes.

Q. Talk about playing in Springfield.
NANCY LOPEZ: It's always been a friendly place to me. I have friends here and I have always come here and enjoyed playing. I grew up playing in Lorell (ph) pretty much, and you know, it's I think a great venue now that we've moved here. Springfield is a great town for a golf tournament. We have always had great support.
But you know, I think just coming back and seeing friends and playing here. I think players always have their favorite places to go and Springfield is probably one of my favorite places to come. That's why I come and I know that the crowds will be good and I know they will be friendly and they will be supporting me no matter what happens. So, you go to places where you're comfortable and I'm definitely comfortable here.

Q. What do you think of the golf course?
NANCY LOPEZ: It's a good golf course, and you can take advantage of the par 5s. I think a lot of the players here, they will be able to reach those par 5s in two. You know, it's just a course that you have to be patient and the greens are small, which is good for me. I like small greens. I think it's a great place to come.
I think it will be a course the players will enjoy playing. I don't know how the scores will be. I think the course is a little short only because it's hard and it's rolling a lot, but it's still not easy shots. You have to judge where you want to land the ball and how much release you want to have and then the other things come into the plan when you're hitting the golf shots.
So, you know, it's going to take a lot of finesse in what you're doing when you're out there.

Q. When you talk about being frustrated about not hitting fairways, even though you're only playing a few tournaments, what are your expectations?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I really would like to shoot closer to par than I have been. (Chuckling) It's just when I get over a shot, I want to hit a solid shot. That's my goal is every shot I hit, no matter what, I want to hit a solid shot because I have not been able to do that. I almost hit a shot and then I might hit one thin. And it's a lot of pressure; it's pressure that I put on myself to perform better.
But that's part of it, trying to get that good shot, trying to make par, trying to make birdie. That's the way I'm going to have to prepare out there. I'm only playing six tournaments. I may play one more maybe later, I'm not sure. I have one daughter who is a sophomore in high school and I would hate to lose her too much. If she was in college, I would probably play a lot more on the Tour, but I'm just trying to take care of my body as much as I can. I have really bad feet like I said, and my hand but it doesn't really hurt. Physically I feel the best I have in long time, I've lost a lot of weight and I still have a goal.
So, it's just, you know, one thing leads to another. And like I said, this winter I'm going to have to work really hard to get my golf game in shape. I want it to be so that when I do come out next year, I can shoot under par, in or around par and get those solid shots back all the time.

Q. If you're not breaking par by a certain time next year you will reassess, or do you look at it that way or do you think that far in the future?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I really haven't thought that far in the future. I think that I have come to the realization that I am not going to it had the ball as far as I used to. I might still hit it far, but I think the main objective for me is to keep the ball in flight, and if I can accept I can hit a shorter shot, that's okay. And if I can take that picture in my head of the years past and put a new one in that says "you can still play this game" and you can still shoot under par but you have to realize that you're not going to hit every shot long and the other players are probably going to fly it over your ball -- there's a lot of golf that has to do with your ego.
When I was one of those players on the LPGA Tour -- now I have to watch a player blow it by me when I was blowing it by them. There's a lot of things that if you can settle with that by yourself, then you can accept it; then I think that's when I'm going to be able to play the golf that I think I can still play; not just hit the ball far, but accept that I'm not going to be able to do what I used to do.
And that's the tough part is getting the old memory of what I used to do out of my head and the new memory of play good golf and take whatever comes and just walk down the middle and hit the green -- even if I can hit the green with a 5-iron instead of a wedge, there's a big difference. So I have to work on my long irons a little bit more, my 7-woods and things like that. I always said I have four woods in my bag, I'd stop playing golf; and I have five in my bag now.
It's been fun. Even though I've played poorly, I've really enjoyed standing over every golf shot and really grinding to hit it, whether it's good or bad, I'm excited to be back out again.

Q. How have you been hitting your driver?
NANCY LOPEZ: I'm hitting my driver so-so. When you're not swinging it well, you can't blame it on the club. I think if I get my swing back to where it should be -- I think my driver is going to be okay. But I'm trying driver and I would like it to be better. I might play tomorrow with my old driver and just work with other drivers in the off-season.
ASHLEY CUSHMAN: Thank you very much, Nancy, and good luck this week.

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