Nancy Marie Lopez played one of the greatest stretches of golf in the history of the LPGA Tour between 1978 and 1979.
Born in Torrance, California on January 6, 1957, she and her older sister moved with their parents to Roswell, New Mexico as young girls. Her father, who owned an auto-body shop and played to a three handicap, introduced her to golf at age 8. Lopez never had a lesson and taught herself the game by playing every day. At age 9, she competed in her first Pee-Wee Junior Tournament in Alamogordo, New Mexico, playing nine holes three days in a row. Lopez shot in the high 60s each day and won by 110 shots. By age 11, Nancy beat her father for the first time while shooting 38 for nine holes at their local municipal course and at 12 won the first of her three New Mexico Women’s Amateur championships. A nationally ranked amateur in high school, Lopez played on the boys’ golf team at Goodard High School and led the Rockets to a state championship. She won the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in 1972 and 1974 , the Women’s Western Junior from 1972-74 and, shortly after graduating from Goddard in 1975, played in the U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur and tied for second. Miss Lopez enrolled at the University of Tulsa and played for the women’s team, earning All-American honors as a freshman in 1976 and being named Female Athlete of the Year. Lopez won the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women [AIAW]–the governing body that preceded the NCAA–National Championship and was a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup and World Amateur teams. Lopez left college following her sophomore year at Tulsa and turned pro in 1977, again finishing second in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Nancy Lopez played her first full season on the LPGA Tour in 1978 and became an instant star. Her first win came at the Brent Tree Classic in February, her second came at the Sunstar Classic two weeks later and then she won five in a row from May 14 to June 18, including her first major, the LPGA Championship. There, she shot a thirteen-under-par 275 to beat Amy Alcott by six shots at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Center outside Cincinnati, Ohio and earn the $22,500 first prize. The win set four new LPGA records, including lowest total score and strokes under par, fastest to earn $100,000 in a season and six titles as a rookie. One week later, she won her fifth title at the Bankers Trust Classic in Pittsford, New York. Lopez continued her winning ways at the Colgate European Open in Berkshire, England in August and the Colgate Far East Open in Malaysia in November to finish her rookie season with nine wins and $ 189,814 in official earnings. Her cheerful personality and infectious smile breathed new life into women’s golf and the LPGA Tour. Commissioner Ray Volpe said of Lopez, “she’s Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino rolled into one player. She has the sex appeal of Palmer and the charisma of Trevino”. In 1978, Nancy Lopez was named Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, the only player in LPGA history to win those three awards in the same year. She also won the money title, was named AP Female Athlete of the Year and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, all at 21 years of age. The following season, she won another eight times and won multiple times each year from 1980 to 1984.
Ms. Lopez played half seasons in 1983 and 1984 due to the birth of her first child but returned full time in 1985 with five wins, five seconds and five third-place finishes. She won the money and scoring titles, was named Player of the Year and, for the second time in her career, was chosen AP Female Athlete of the Year. She also won her second major at the Women’s PGA Championship, a tourney she would win three times in her career. She gave birth to three children during her prime and still managed to win 52 times in her professional career. She won three money titles, was a four-time Player of the Year, three times led the LPGA in lowest scoring average and won three major championships. She played on the 1990 Solheim Cup team and captained it in 2005. Nancy Lopez has won numerous awards for her charitable and humanitarian work and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1987.
On this date in 1990, Nancy Lopez won the MBS Golf Classic at Los Coyotes Country Club in Buena Park, California in a playoff over Cathy Gerring. It was her 43rd career victory.