Nancy Lopez has been a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame since 1987. She turned professional when she was 20 and ended her career with 48 LPGA Tour wins and three major championships. She also won the 1980 JCPenney Classic at Bardmoor in Largo with partner Curtis Strange. During the late 1970s and '80s, Lopez was the face of the LPGA Tour.
Lopez, 54, is divorced from her second husband, former major-leaguer Ray Knight, and living in Auburn, Ala. The youngest of her three daughters, Torri, is a senior at Auburn.
Lopez is making her first appearance at the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship, which begins today at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor. She talked to the St. Petersburg Times between shots of a Tuesday practice round about her expectations for the tournament, and how things used to be on the tour and how they are now.
Have you been able to play much golf now that you are retired from the game?
I just sold my house in Georgia this year, and it kind of messed up my whole year. I really wanted to play more. But with moving out of this great big house and moving stuff into my other houses, it just cramped my golf style this year. Hopefully, next year will be a little better. I only have a wedding. My second daughter (Erinn) is getting married. I want to play more, because if I play more, obviously I'm going to play better.
You designed a course in the Villages (a Central Florida retirement community) and used to live there. Are you living in Florida anymore?
I'm in the house in Auburn right now. … But I'm really not there very much. I'm doing a lot of corporate outings and charity events and some Legends Tour events. I've been real busy. I haven't been anywhere for very long.
Any expectations for this tournament?
Well, I've got a few days to find some tempo. I'm hitting the ball pretty good, just not consistently. I'm going to work on getting more comfortable. And especially I'm going to work on my 5-footers and in. I haven't played in many tournaments or pressure events. I'd like to play some good golf. .
Do you get a chance to see many of the people you used to compete against?
Not really. It's really fun playing with players I've played against in the past. But they are very competitive. It's like a reunion. It's great to see everybody again. There is competitive spirit, but it's not as cutthroat as it used to be. They all still want to play well. They want to show they can still play the game.
You were the New Mexico Women's Amateur champion when you were 12. You played in the U.S. Open at 15. But you went to college (University of Tulsa) before you turned pro at 20. Alexis Thompson recently turned pro at 15. Could you imagine doing that?
Everybody thought my game was ready. I played in the U.S. Open when I was 15. But I wasn't sure that was going to make me happy. I ended up going to college, and I loved that, even though I only stayed for two years. I think sometimes the kids of today come out way too early. I know the money is there and it's nice, but it's not all about playing on the tour. It's about going to school, enjoying those things in life that you can't get back.
Can Thompson succeed?
Alexis could be somebody that is so positive for the LPGA Tour. She is really a great player. I captained her on the Solheim Cup a few years ago when she was 14. I think with the way she can play, she can put the LPGA back on the map again.
Can somebody like Michelle Wie put the LPGA on the map?
I'd like to see Michelle do well. She had to fight so hard to get to where she is now. Whoever was telling her to do the things she did, like playing on the men's tour, that just did not make sense to me. Now that she's on the women's tour, she is very comfortable.