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Lopez to Retire At Seasons End

Nancy Lopez, one of the most dominant women golfers of all time, announced that 2002 will be her final year as a regular on the LPGA Tour.
'I am not walking away from golf,' Lopez said Wednesday before playing in the pro-am of the Ping Banner Health, the LPGA's second tournament of the season. 'I am at the beginning of a brand new chapter in my golf career.
'You will see me, because I will be participating in corporate golf events, television, golf course design and working with Women's Golf Unlimited to develop new ideas for my namesake club line.'
She said she would compete in selected tour events in the future.
'I still have the fire,' Lopez said.
After Phoenix, Lopez expects to play in tournaments this month in Tucson, Ariz., and Rancho Mirage, Calif., before taking time off. She said her next commitment was to the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in Stockbridge, Ga., on May 3-5. Lopez is the tournament host.
The announcement came three days after a women's golf summit, which called for reliance on star power as part of a five-year plan to improve the LPGA's attractiveness in the sports-entertainment market.
Lopez, who has won 48 titles since she joined the tour in 1977, was one of the first LPGA players to capture the attention of non-golfers.
The galleries she drew called themselves 'Nancy's Navy,' a takeoff on the 'Arnie's Army' following PGA Tour star Arnold Palmer, and Lopez elevated the LPGA by smashing stereotypes about the women's game.
'What Mr. Palmer has done for men's golf, I think Nancy has done that and more for women's golf,' Lorie Kane said. 'It's not bothersome to her to sign 100 autographs on the way to the first tee and 100 autographs on the way to the clubhouse.'
Still considered a rookie in 1978, she won a record five tournaments in a row and had nine wins for the season, becoming the only player to earn the LPGA's honors for player of the year, rookie of the year and scoring-average leader in the same season.
In 1985, Lopez became the first woman to reach the 20-under mark when she made 25 birdies during the week and won the Henredon Classic with a score of 20-under 268.
A four-time player of the year and three-time Vare Trophy winner for lowest scoring average, Lopez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987 at the age of 30, the youngest ever.
'I still have the fire, so I plan to compete in some events during the years after the 2002 season,' she said. 'Although this change in my career makes me sad, I know that it is time to make my commitments to new projects, my wonderful sponsors, AIM for the Handicapped, and my family.'
Lopez and her husband, former baseball player Ray Knight, have four children. They live in Albany, Ga.
Nancy Lopez's proposed 2002 LPGA Tour schedule:
March 14-17 PING Banner Health
March 21-24 Welch's/Circle K Championship
March 28-31 Kraft Nabisco Championship
May 3-5 Chick-fil-A Charity Championship
May 9-12 Aerus Electrolux USA Championship
May 31-June 2 Kellogg-Keebler Classic
June 6-9 McDonald's LPGA Championship
June 20-23 Wegmans Rochester LPGA
July 11-14 Jamie Farr Kroger Classic
July 19-21 Giant Eagle LPGA Classic
Aug. 29-Sept. 1 State Farm Classic
Sept. 6-8 Williams Championship
Sept. 13-15 Safeway Classic