Lopez Plays In Old College Town - and Shes Still the Same
For the record, Nancy teed it up in Tulsa, Okla., at the Williams Championship this week, and shot 82-77. She is only a part-time player this year, having devoted herself fulltime to raising a family. Her daughters are 17, 15 and nine, and throw in husband Ray Knight and you have the better part of the day spent on motherhood. Except - there is much more than just three daughters and a husband.
Somehow this busy lady finds time to do all those motherly things PLUS having her own golf club line; PLUS having to answer an incredible amount of mail each week; PLUS having to make an appearance here and there because she is, after all, Nancy Lopez.
Last week she went back to Tulsa to play for the first time since 1977, when she left the university after two years to turn professional. Her golfing days have left her with a painful legacy - she has a right knee that's stripped of its cartilage, making walking somewhat of an ordeal. Her days as a mom has added more difficulty - she still aches from a fall in her Albany, Ga., home that left her right shoulder in a dull, constant pain. She hadn't played in 1 ?-months prior to the Tulsa tournament.
'I was afraid I wasn't going to get to come here,' said Nancy. Her scores were a reflection of that - she probably should have stayed home until she felt a little more chipper, but then, this was Tulsa. And, 'Tulsa has been dear to my heart since college,' she said last week.
She first played golf at age eight on a moonscape that served as the municipal course in Roswell, N.M. Trailing behind her mom and dad, she learned to keep it out of the 'rough,' which was basically a series of enormous potholes with a liberal sprinkling of rocks and dirt. By the time she was 12, she already was good enough to win the New Mexico Women's Amateur. She won the U.S. Girls Junior championship at 14 and again at 16, and by the age of 18 - while still an amateur - she played in the U.S. Women's Open. She finished second, by the way.
Tulsa, it might be added, was just starting to add women's golf when Lopez decided to attend there in 1975. Why Tulsa? Well, for starters, they were the only college that offered Nancy even a partial college scholarship.
Coach Dale McNamara could hardly believe her good luck when Lopez began playing. Her partial-scholarship golfer won the individual college woman's championship in 1976, and nine tournaments altogether. But it was time to leave after two years - she knew it, and Coach McNamara knew it.
'Halfway through Nancy's freshman year, it was so obvious,' she told the Golf Journal. 'Quite frankly, we talked about it as it was probably the thing she should do. I've never said this to another girl, but Nancy needed to turn pro when she did.
'I believe every girl needs to have a college education and background, but with Nancy, she had the personality, the charisma, that was just ready to expose.'
Lopez, it should also be explained, wasn't an honor student. The Golden Hurricane women's team quickly became a national power and oil companies in the area made sure that the girls flew to all the tournaments in private company jets.
'Trying to major in engineering was pretty much impossible because I was on the girls' golf team; I was gone all the time. I had tutors teaching me calculus,' said Nancy. 'I said, 'I want to do this,' but I just didn't have the time to give it because I was playing so much golf.'
So Lopez left the University of Tulsa and turned pro in 1977, with the blessings of her coach. Immediately she started winning - five in a row as a rookie and nine times total that year, eight more times her second year, 48 during her wonderful LPGA career. She was young when her age allowed her to be, partaking liberally of the nightlife during her first four or five years as a pro. But when it became time to be a mother, she approached motherhood with all the energy that she once gave to golf.
'She was an instant star, but it never affected her,' said another Hall of Famer, Joanne Carner. 'Nancy never changes. She's the same today as she was the first day she came out here.'
The Tulsa ex surely is the most loved golfer among her fellow players. 'She may be the nicest lady on tour,' said Laura Davies. 'She used to be the best, and she still is the best, even though she doesn't play that much.'
Barb Mucha knows her simply as 'a sweet lady. She's as nice in person as she seems to be on TV. She takes time out for people, gives a little something extra to spectators. She has had to earn everything she gotten, and I know she's very appreciative of everything that has come her way.'
It hasn't been easy being Nancy Lopez Knight, if just for the fact that it's hard to keep your head when the entire world is prostrate at your feet. But she is still just the little girl from Roswell, the college girl from Tulsa, or maybe the mom from Georgia.
'Throughout my life, that's what I've tried to do, to put myself on the same level with everybody else,' said Nancy. 'I've wanted everyone else to feel that way about me.
'It's hard for me sometimes when people walk up to me and react the way they do. I'm like - 'OK, hey, I'm just Nancy.' I'm honored, but I don't want to be singled out.'
Jan Stephenson knows a little about fame. She was the LPGA's 'sex symbol' in the late '70s and early '80s, but she always knew who the 'queen' was - Nancy Lopez. And it didn't bother her one bit to acquiesce to this Tulsa ex.
'Her humility is so special,' Stephenson. 'As great a player as she is, you know that she knows she is a great golfer.
'But she never, ever lets on that she's anything but just another woman out here playing golf. Inwardly - she knows. Outwardly - she's the sweetest person out here.'
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET
Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.
“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.
She wondered if there would be resentment.
She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”
PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.
Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.
She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.
Fans have been stopping her for autographs.
“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.
He waved Lincicome over.
“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”
Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.
“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.
Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.
“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.
Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.
Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.
Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.
What are Lincicome’s expectations?
She would love to make the cut, but . . .
“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.
“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”
Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.
Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.
As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.
“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”
Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.
The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.
“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”