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Nancy Lopez: 1957—: Golfer

Became Professional Golfer

In 1977 Lopez tied for second place at the U.S. Women's Open as an amateur; that same year, she was named LPGA Rookie of the Year. Although she turned pro later that year, her official LPGA rookie season was 1978. In that first season, Lopez won an astonishing five tournaments in a row and was the LPGA Champion. She told Mechelle Voepel in the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, "It just happened so easily; it seemed like everything I did was right. It was just a year that was magical for me." Lopez won against major players of the day, including Hall of Famers JoAnne Carner and Kathy Whitworth, veterans Jan Blalock and Donna Caponi, as well as younger players Pat Bradley, Hollis Stacy, Jan Stephenson and Amy Alcott. She told Voepel, "I did feel like I was in contention every week. I wasn't afraid to be aggressive; I wasn't really afraid of anything at that time." She also told Voepel, "I was just playing because I loved it. But I think now I can look back at that and say, 'Boy, did I have a great year and it was something that people will always remember.'"

In addition to being noted for her talent, Lopez quickly attracted the attention of fans, who appreciated her friendly demeanor. Lopez told Voepel that when she was fifteen, she had attended a men's pro tournament, where she hoped to get an autograph from a well-known player. She and another fan were waiting in line when the player snarled, "I don't have time for this," and walked away. Lopez vowed that if she ever became a pro, she would never act like that. It's a vow she has kept throughout her career.

Lopez met her first husband, sportscaster Tim Melton, in June of 1978, at the end of her phenomenal 1978 winning-streak. They married shortly afterwards and she continued to play well, winning eight of the nineteen tournaments she entered. However, her marriage to Melton was stressful, partly because of her long absences from home to play in tournaments and partly because, as she told Richard Lemon in People Weekly, "We just grew apart," and in 1981 they divorced. At the same time, her game had been also been deteriorating. Although she won a dozen championships from 1980 through 1984, Lopez felt flat. She told Frank Deford in Sports Illustrated, "Suddenly, I couldn't hit the ball where I wanted to, and I'd been able to do that since I was twelve. There were times when every day I'd go back to the hotel crying."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: C(hristopher) J(ohn) Koch Biography - C.J. Koch comments: to Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard Lovell (1913– ) BiographyNancy Lopez: 1957—: Golfer Biography - An Early Success, Became Professional Golfer, Won Her Third Lpga Championship, Experienced Health Problems