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July 16, 2008

Nancy Lopez


JASON TAYLOR: Nancy, thanks for coming in and joining us today. We know you enjoy coming back to Springfield each year. Just talk about being here for this week's event.
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I'm glad to be here. Last week I was planning to play Toledo, and unfortunately wasn't feeling well and had planned to come here. I always love to come to Springfield. I have friends here.
The tournament is very comfortable for me, and I think this year the course is just in fantastic shape. Too bad there's a lot of players that are missing playing here, because I think they'd really enjoy the course.
It's in really great shape. Playing a little bit longer, of course, but it feels good out there. Greens are putting well. It's tricky. It's fast. It's the kind of course you want to play.
JASON TAYLOR: Questions.

Q. With the long association you've had with this event and like you said when a lot of the top players don't come here, being one of the statesman on the tour, is that something that shouldn't really happen?
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, it's tough right now because this tournament is right before Evian, which I hate that that has happened. I'm not a big supporter of the foreign events only because they take us away from the events that have been there for us all these years. I think that's very important. We as players need to remember that and make the effort to play here and then go to Evian.
If we have tournaments that are going to take us out of the country, you still have to make a little bit of an effort to play the smaller events. And it's not a small event. The purse is really nice.
Sometimes you have to really dig down deep and play one more tournament. I know that sometimes there are tournaments, as when I was a top player, that they just fall in the wrong slot, too. You know, there could be a lot of different reasons why some of the players aren't here, not just because of Evian.
They play so many in a row and then they have to take a week off somewhere, and this is just right there where it's going to hurt them a lot of different ways.

Q. Kind of along those lines, next week jumping to France and then the British, the tour is, as they say, more and more global all the time, more and more international players. Seems like now they're looking more to have tournaments outside of United States. Just observing, is it going to be kind of tough to achieve a balance there, to keep tournaments, keep them priorities and still be able to go to places like Singapore?
NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, and I don't know if those are full-field events. I don't think that they are, which to me I think we need to always think about -- you know, we can go over there, but they need to be full-field events so all players can play.
The European event is a full-field event, but I don't believe Evian is. It's just important that if we're going to go over there we still need to have full-field events, because there are a lot of players that struggle here and we don't have enough tournaments for them to play in.
I'm an advocate of a lot of tournaments, at least enough to where everybody can take off a week and rest and top players be able to do that.
But yet we to have more events, I believe. We're the LPGA. To me, that's the United States. We need to play more in the United States and give the players that are on the tour an opportunity to play here.
I think we -- I'd love to see more tournaments in January and February, which we don't have any. And I'd like to see some more full-field events at the end of year next year.
Women's golf, we need to really support our events here. We need to support the people that support us, you know, the fans, the people that play in our Pro-Ams. Because it's just important.
We just can't forget the people that been there for us for so many years. I look at Phoenix and Tucson. Tournaments that are -- I don't know if it involves Phoenix or not, but I know Tucson, Welch's, and before that they are there for us.
So I just think that somehow we need to be able to have a happy medium of more events, weeks off where people might need a week off. So enough tournaments to fill that kind of schedule would be nice. I know it's not easy. It's tough to do that. I know it sounds easy, but it's not.
Weather. You know, some people get a lot rain during a certain part of year and they can't have an event and there's other tournaments in that slot. So there's a lot of juggling that needs to go on, but I think we need to think about that more.

Q. I think it was John Miller a couple of weeks ago was kind of lamenting the fact at the U.S. Women's Open that there is all the top foreign players now and there's not many American players in the top 20 or so. How important is it for somebody to kind of come up and rise up, an American, for this tour's health?
NANCY LOPEZ: I think that everybody realizes it. I mean, even Annika who I admire very much as one of greatest players I've seen playing the game. I was sitting in press conferences when he was working for the Golf Channel and they asked her, What could be better on the LPGA Tour? She's winning and of course setting a lot of goals. Oh, if I was American it would be better. So even she admits that if we have an American player that everyone can really follow.
I think we have those players in Paula Creamer and Natalie. Natalie hasn't really won a lot, but she's a nice, fresh, young face. She hits the ball well. I think she is going win and start winning once she gets really comfortable.
Paula I think is going to win a lot. I hate that Annika is retiring. Or I wish she would have just said she was going to take off a year and come back and not retire. I think a lot of people think I retired, because when I had my farewell tour it was more of a tour to kind of just say goodbye to places I may not come back to.
But never use the word "retire." I told Jerry Potter, Do not let the newspaper USA Today use the word "retire." First thing he did was "Nancy Lopez retiring." Well, I never retired. I just wanted to walk away and play when I wanted to.
So I told Annika, I can't believe you're retiring. Because she keeps that little spark in there, as does Juli Inkster, the older players. Annika is not old, but she's old now compared to all the young players on our tour.
It just keeps that competitive spirit going with the older generation with the new generation of players. Know the economy is probably going to hurt us for a little bit. I think LPGA golf is a great way to entertain big corporations. We have a fabulous tour. I think the best tour that we will ever have, and it will be a tour had will have longevity because we have players that are so young. 21, 22, 25. They have got twenty more years to play on this tour.
And then the other players coming up, the Koreans that are such great players. I keep saying, what's their secret. We have got catch the secret. Why are they so good? What's going on? Why are they coming over here and really taking over?
I do, I look at the leaderboard every time I turn on the television. I mean, I'm an American. I'm going to root for an American. I love the European and Korean players. Root for them, too. But I want to see an American in there for sure.

Q. I guess would this be your third tournament this year.

Q. I know you were going to play in Toledo. How do you feel this week?
NANCY LOPEZ: I'm going to say everything I feel and then I'm not going to say anything negative anymore. I tried to play last week and felt really good going in there. I'm hitting the ball better.
You got play to get better again, and I really haven't been able to do that. Ray had open heart surgery in November, so for four months I put my clubs up, gained some weight, didn't play at all.
It was really tough time for him. He had to deal with really worrying about his health. He's doing great now, and now I've come back out. Everything hurts and I hate it. Everything does hurt right now.
My shoulder is bothering me and my left knee is bone on bone. It doesn't hurt me, but after I play my body knows my knee is bone on bone so I have to ice my knees and ice my shoulder. So I'm sitting there going, Why am I doing this?
Well, I love to hit that really good shot even if it's only a few out there. And I have love being on the LPGA Tour.
Some day when I can't really play comfortably anymore -- when I got vertigo and I just couldn't -- I wanted to play so bad, but I was afraid that if I went out I would be goofy and of course would have to withdraw.
There were players sitting there waiting for someone to withdraw so they could play, and there was no reason for me to take a spot when a player was waiting.
I decided to pull out. I had a great time with my friends. You know, I have friends here and I love being here. It's comfortable. There's no rushing around being crazy, and that's why I think I enjoy it. I like smaller cities.
But I'm excited about playing. I'd like to really play well. My goal is to make the cut. I haven't made a cut in a long time. You know, I just want to go out there and play the best I can. I hope I can play under par. That'll be my goal, and I'm hoping that will be making the cut.
That's to me sort of a shallow goal for me. But since I haven't in a while, that's probably a big goal.
So with all my aches and pains and just not feeling great I realize if I want to play I just have to deal with it and just go out there and play the best I can and ice my knees and shoulders and come out and try and hit the ball straight down the middle of the fairway.

Q. Everybody talks about the young players out here now. I guess when you were out on tour, I guess the Futures Tour existed, but it seems like the LPGA owns or helps run it. Just observing it, the Futures Tour, just seems like it's really improved. Do you think it's helping the LPGA Tour in terms of young players coming up?
NANCY LOPEZ: Definitely. I think the Futures Tour, and I think a lot of people playing in the Futures Tour events, amateurs also. They talk about how good those players really are. I think it really does prepare them.
I think it's tough for players just when they don't make it out here at first and they don't qualify, then they have a place to go and work on their game and work on the pressures of playing as a professional. It's not easy.
Even though you have a good golf game, there's still a different mental attitude about on the women's professional tour. It's not like being an amateur anymore. You know, you're playing against some great players. I think at one time many years ago we always thought that anybody that shot even par was a good player.
Well, you know, you're going to have to shoot under par to be a really good player out here anymore, and I think you need to set your goals high to do that. So I think the Futures Tour definitely does prepare, as collegiate golf does. I think collegiate golf really helps because there are a lot of great collegiate players.
I think it just helps the stability of the person that comes out. They go to college and get a degree, they come out here and they have something to fall back on. I think that's always something that bothers me. Sometimes players -- I only went two years, but sometimes players leave way too soon and don't go to college and they don't take time to enjoy their young life. It goes very quickly.
I think with that they get more prepared before they come out here. I look at Michelle Wie and she's such a great talent. I struggle with her in my mind because I just feel like she should be winning on the LPGA. I think just went wrong direction for a while playing on the men's tour and trying to compete against the men when I really felt she needed to come here and play against and Annika and beat them before going out against the men if that's what she wanted to do.
It's kind of hurt her. I think she realizes that, but I don't know for sure. She is such a great talent and she should be winning out here already. I think she just tried to grow up too quickly and needed time to enjoy her young life and then come out here and play the type of golf that I think she can really play.
When I saw here play probably five years ago at Nabisco, she was hitting the ball straight and long and felt really confident. To me, if I was her parents I would have let her play amateur golf for a long time and let her beat the heck out of everybody and learn how to win and get the feeling of the pressure of wining and losing.
Because my dad told me I was always going to lose a lot more than I won, so I better get used to it. Sometimes that's hard, but if you can deal with it and play hard then you have a good chance.
I just think it's important for young people to take their time. The LPGA is going to be there, and they just need to prepare themselves the best way they can, because we have the best players out here that they'll ever see.

Q. You don't like to maybe just compare one player to one other particular player, but Vicky Hurst is also here this week. She's 18. You know, hindsight is 20/20, but I think she took that other route. She played a lot of amateur golf and won a lot of tournaments and I guess felt like she was ready to be a pro now. Have you met her or observed what she's done?
NANCY LOPEZ: No, I haven't met her. I might have met her but I've never seen her play. You know, you have to really kind of know when you're ready. I know when I was 18 just out of high school there were a lot people saying, You're ready to turn professional. I was like, I don't think so.
I played in my first U.S. Open I believe when I was 15. I watched the touring pros, how they were. They were really meticulous about everything. I just didn't feel like I was ready. So when I went Tulsa University I went there to get experience, to finally feel comfortable if that's what I really wanted to do.
I didn't want anybody to tell me that I was ready to turn professional. I had to make that decision. My dad never pushed me. I know was hoping I would turn professional eventually, but he never really made me feel like I had to. He just wanted me to do what made me feel comfortable, what made me happy, and I think if I wanted to turn professional after high school he would have let me. But I just didn't feel like I was ready.
I know after two years at Tulsa I had a tough time deciding what to do. I had come to the point in my career, in my life as a young person, and was I really going to work hard and study and get my engineering degree or was I going to quit and play golf and do that, or was I going to go out on the tour and work on my golf game.
Because I got a little bored with collegiate golf because I won a lot events. I just felt like, where Am I going from here? I decided after two years to come out on tour still not sure whether I could make it. Just wondering how good I really was. But that was all my own decision. No one pushed me out here. I did it on my own.

Q. Engineering, huh?
NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, and it was tough. Playing collegiate golf was a lot of work. You had to really manage your time well to be able to study and play golf. It was really tough.

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