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April 23, 2008

Nancy Lopez


KIM BERARD: Thank you everyone for joining us again, and thank you to Nancy for coming in this afternoon.
KIM BERARD: You just celebrated the 30th anniversary of your first professional LPGA victory. Congrats on that.
NANCY LOPEZ: Thank you.

Q. Obviously a very storied career. 48 LPGA victories between '78 and '97. That's quite a task. We know you've been busy off the course as well. You've got things going on like Nancy Lopez Golf, and I know charitable initiatives as well. I know you're very involved with Aim for the Handicapped for about three years now. That's incredible.
KIM BERARD: Just welcome you this week. Love that you can join us for such a unique event. Hopefully you can just talk a little bit about what it's going to be like to be out there this week.
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, first of all, thank you. This golf course, I played it about 30 years ago almost. It was about '82 or 3 I won the tournament that was here. The golf course is completely gone that we played on then.
I think Stanford has picked a great place to have a golf tournament. This golf course is just beautiful. In great shape. Difficult golf course. There's going to have to be some good shots out there. Tee shot is definitely going to be the shot that's going to get you in contention for that hole.
But greens are very tricky. Tough to read. I usually don't have too much trouble reading putts, but there's a lot of tricky undulations. I think it's going to be a great test of golf, for sure.
I have been very busy taking care of my husband, first of all. I think a lot of people didn't know that Ray had heart surgery in November, triple bypass surgery. He's doing great now, but it took a lot of my time away from myself. Put my life on the back burner and just took care of my husband for a while.
I think that's really why my golf game is struggling more so. I really, after last year, wanted to build on that and try and play better this year, but unfortunately that happened for Ray. I did the right thing though. I was glad to be with him.
So I'm a little rusty, but I have to work hard on my game, which I haven't done for a long time until last year. And I really enjoy it. I enjoy working on it and trying to see those good shots get up in the air and hit it solid. Just try and compete a little bit, at least right now.
KIM BERARD: Questions.

Q. Is Ray here?
NANCY LOPEZ: No, he's not. He's working for the Washington National up in Baltimore. He does television in the studio. He does do a few away games where he does pregame and postgame shows. He enjoys it a lot. He would like to stay in baseball. I know he'd probably like to coach again. I don't want him to manage. Too stressful.
But he just enjoys being a part of baseball, so we're doing our traveling thing again. I have to travel to see him up there, as the kids do too. So we stay very busy.

Q. Is this your first competition since he recovered?
NANCY LOPEZ: Yes. I did play last week in the Outback Steakhouse with Tom Kite. He was my partner and I was a celebrity. I enjoyed it. I really hit the ball well last week. I'm having a little bit of timing trouble this week. It's all about tempo, just trying to really get around. My feet have been bothering me a lot. So that takes a lot the endurance to get out there and walk and play and swing.
But the last few weeks have been walking and swinging, and that's what I hadn't been doing for four months. So I'm just really trying to catch up as quickly as I can.

Q. You haven't had a Pro-Am like this in the LPGA Tour for seven years. Talk about the importance of it, the role of an event like this, and how meaningful it is or isn't?
NANCY LOPEZ: I think it's a great idea to have this kind of event. We did have, or at the least when I played in a few of these with celebrities or amateurs, I enjoyed them. I think it's a great way to bring more people to LPGA golf also, to have these people come out and play with us.
They'll see a lot of great golf, because I truly believe that our tour is the best that it has ever been in the last few years. They're going to see the best talent they've ever seen on the LPGA Tour.
I just -- I'm amazed at what we have out here, the young players and how great they are as players, and as ambassadors to the LPGA Tour. So an event like this is definitely a plus for us.

Q. Might as well get the Lorena Ochoa question out early. You're one of the few people that can relate to what she's gone through in the last couple years, particularly the last month or so. Talk about your thoughts on that. Are you surprised to see somebody come along so soon after Annika and also appear to dominate?
NANCY LOPEZ: I think players like Lorena and Annika, you know, they're just blessed with talent. I think they become better because they work on it and they know that they have the talent to play the type golf they so.
Lorena is just playing fantastic golf. You sit there and shake your head, but she really has worked hard. I know when she was in the driver's seat she was uncomfortable a few years ago, faltering a little bit I thought when it would come down pressure situations.
A lot of players get comfortable quickly, and she has definitely done that. Some don't. Some never get comfortable in that situation. But she has definitely been able to do that.
And I know when I played my best golf and when I was winning, it becomes automatic, you know. Everything seems simple. When you're hitting your driver the fairway seems very wide. The greens get bigger and the holes get bigger.
When you have the type golf game that she has now with the confidence that has developed over all the tournaments she's won, I mean, I remember those feelings. It just happens. You just really build so much confidence. When you get that swing in muscle memory mode and you're able to focus the way that Annika and the way that Lorena has done, golf really is easy. And I'm sure she feels that. She probably won't say it because I didn't tell anybody it was easy, but I felt it. It just was very automatic after a while.
As I watch her, you know, she just keeps winning and hitting better shots and keeps making better shots or more pressure putts. That's just going to make her better and harder to beat.

Q. Having played at Outback last week, is there much difference between playing one of those events as an amateur and one of these events as the professional?
NANCY LOPEZ: Not really. For me it wasn't. I was kind of embarrassed at one time, because when we were taking pictures they said for the pro to move to the outside, and I moved to the outside. I said, Oh, I'm sorry, Tom. I went back and got in my place. But I was a little confused, I think, last week when I was having to be the celebrity player.
But it was really a lot of fun. I wish I could have helped Tom more. The course played very long for me. He played well and only had a couple really bad holes that hurt him. Otherwise he was hitting it very consistent, I thought. I enjoyed it because it was fun watching them, trying to -- by osmosis I was trying to take away their tempo and bring it with me this week.
It was really fun, and I think that that kind of format is fun. I know it's tougher for the professional, I'm sure, because I really tried to stay out of his way. When I pretty much could pick up, I picked up and moved out of his way because I know what he's trying to do: Make a living on the tour.
I didn't want to get in his way. And I'm sure that a lot of the amateurs that play here this week will feel the same way. So you do play a different role as a professional and is as celebrity or amateur.

Q. What are your expectations this week?
NANCY LOPEZ: I want to hit all the greens in regulation. I would just like to see my golf game get stronger as the days go on. Physically I'd like to feel better as the days go on. I'm working to try and get my game, you know, hitting more consistent shots.
But also feeling better physically, because I haven't played and walked a lot. So I love it. I enjoy it. When I hit that good shot it has all those good feelings still as I hit and as I swing.
I just don't really want to get in anybody's way. And I'd like whoever I'm playing with to play well while I'm working on my golf game.

Q. There was a time where it looked like there was a drought of young American players maybe ten years ago. Could you just speak to the class of American players coming up right now, what you think of them?
NANCY LOPEZ: I remember that time, because it was like the press was asking us, you know, Where are all the good American players? But, you know, all of a sudden they all came out of high school and we got those players. Like all of a sudden we just had a bunch of them: Morgan and Paula, Natalie, Lorena.
All these players were there in the background somewhere as the young players that were going to come out. I'm sure I'm missing some. They basically came out at the same time. We didn't have anybody that was an American player that was standing out.
I remember going to press conferences with Annika and the press asking her, What could be better for our tour? She said, If I was American. Because we didn't have an American player that was winning a lot and Annika was beating everybody.
So it was, I thought, a sad time for the LPGA Tour. I really wanted to see more Americans coming out here and being able to bringing more interest to the LPGA Tour. Because Americans want to follow Americans. That's just the truth.
I think that Annika has definitely formed a fan base. People love her. I think Colonial did a lot for Annika when she played there. Didn't only bring her personality out more, I think it made her a better player. She came out of there really playing great and became the player that she is now even before Colonial.

Q. A follow up to the last question: What do you suppose happened to that generation of golfers between Beth Daniel, Juli Inkster, that group, and then the Morgans and Paulas and Natalies of today?
NANCY LOPEZ: I don't have an answer to that. I don't know. I was asked that question during that time and I had no clue. I just know that there were a lot of collegiate players that weren't even American. They were coming from other countries and getting scholarships and playing collegiate golf. I just didn't see a lot of Americans in that position.
So I don't really know, you know, what happened. I don't know if we just got comfortable with our lifestyle and nobody really had to go out and be a professional golfer or professional athlete. But I know other countries felt that way. I felt like they felt like golf is a way to make it. Let's go work on our golf games. Let's build our young golfers.
I saw that happening. From other countries that was happening, but I didn't see it here. But, you know, it might have been going on and all of a sudden they were going to be there. I don't know what was happening during that time.

Q. Lorena, she, I guess, kind of reminds us of you in some ways. She isn't just a special player but a special human being. Talk about the importance of that as of face of LPGA Tour, what she also brings to being the No. 1 player, her personality and the way she is.
NANCY LOPEZ: I think she definitely gives back. I think every athlete should do that. When they have the ability to play their sport and be the best, you know, not getting on that high pedestal and looking down at everybody. She doesn't do that. She really does give back. She thinks about her country and charities, and that's very important. She remembers where she comes from. She does not think she's better than anybody else because she can swing a golf club better than everybody right now.
And as for me, at that time I've always enjoyed people. I knew that when I came on the LPGA Tour that, you know, I wanted to be the best I could be. Once they put me in the driver's seat of, Nancy, we want you to do this and that, I felt that was a position for me to go ahead and really put my arms around. And if I could help promote the LPGA Tour in any way that I could, that's what I wanted to do.
If it meant giving up some of my free time and going and doing more things to promote the LPGA Tour, then that was my job as a professional athlete or golfer. Because I think that's very important that our young players remember that without our big sponsors, like Stanford and other sponsors that come out and put the money on the table for us to play for, but also to raise money for charity, it's just very important for us to give back.
Because if we don't, those sponsors will go away. They realize when you appreciate them or not. I just don't like to see a player take. I think she should always give back. I see some players that do take all the time and don't give back. It's very important as professional athletes and professional role models to be able to do that.
As I always tell everybody, I know that probably what built the character that I would say was my character on the LPGA Tour was just the feeling one day of wanting an autograph from a professional athlete and being shunned and not given the autograph and remembering that. How it really bothered me that someone would do that and make everybody feel so small.
So when I turned professional I said, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to sign everybody's autograph if I can and not every make somebody feel as small as that person made all of us feel.
I think it's just very important for athletes to do that and give back and appreciate people and fans. Because when I had my down times they were there and up times they were there. It was very special.

Q. You've obviously played in a couple of conventional Pro-Ams in your day. Is there one common flaw you would see from amateurs? If you had one bit of advice, what would it be?
NANCY LOPEZ: For the men, probably try not to hit the women professionals would be one. They just really have to, you know, play their own game, not try and overswing. If that's what you're talking about.
Yeah. And I think when I watch most amateurs, in their swings I always tell them to finish the backswing before they start the downswing, because they try to hit the ball before they really get in the backswing mode and they can really rip at it.
So I think it's really important: To finish the backswing before you start down. But I do think that the guys that try and outhit these women are going to have a tough time right now, because these women can hit it.

Q. Obviously on the Wednesday Pro-Ams there's a certain atmosphere. It's fun and you're helping your partner. Usually Friday, Saturday, is not, and Sunday it's very serious. We're playing for livelihood and checks and all that. Where on the scale do you think these next three days fall between your typical Wednesday and your typical Sunday?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I think that you have to almost take it as an advantage in that you can -- this is the way you should play golf: In a more relaxed mode. Because I think that a lot of players would probably play better if they weren't so intense all the time.
So I think that with the format that it is, you know, if you're the type of player that you can be on the LPGA Tour, you should be able to focus when you stand over your shot. And once you're done with that shot you kind of relax and enjoy the day and your partner, and then you get focused again as you step over your shot again.
I was always able to do that, so I think that it's a good thing to be able to enjoy the walk with your partner when you're out there playing, and then be able to play your game once you stand over the shot that you're hitting.

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