Nancy Marie Lopez (born January 6, 1957) is an American professional golfer. She became a member of the LPGA Tour in 1977 and won 48 LPGA Tour events during her LPGA career, including three major championships.[Click Here to see others on the list of the 150 Greatest Female Athletes of All Time for 2016.]
Nancy won the New Mexico Women’s Amateur at age 12, and the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 1972 and 1974, at ages 15 and 17, respectively. Playing in the U.S. Women’s Open as an 18-year-old amateur in 1975, she finished tied for second. In 1976, Lopez was named All-American and Female Athlete of the Year for her play at the University of Tulsa. She won the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women National Championship and was a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup and World Amateur teams. She left college after her sophomore year and turned pro in 1977. That year she finished second again in the U.S. Women’s Open.
In 1978, her first full season on the LPGA Tour, Lopez won nine tournaments, including at one stretch, five tournaments in a row. She appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, LPGA Rookie of the Year, LPGA Player of the Year and was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. She won another eight times in 1979. She won multiple times in each year from 1980 to 1984, although she played only half-seasons in 1983 and 1984 due to the birth of her first child.
Playing full-time again in 1985, Lopez posted five wins, five seconds and five thirds, won the money title, the scoring title and the Player of the Year Award. She was also named Associate Press Female Athlete of the Year for a second time. She played only four tournaments in 1986, when her second daughter was born. But came back to win multiple times in 1987-89 – three times each in 1988 and 1989 – and once again won Player of the Year honors in 1988. Her schedule was curtailed again in the early 1990s when her third daughter was born. In 1992 she won twice. She continued to play short schedules – from 11 to 18 tournaments – through 2002, then in 2003 cut back to just a half dozen or fewer events a year.
Lopez finished second at the U.S. Women’s Open four times, the last coming in 1997 when she became the first golfer to score in the 60s for all four rounds, yet she still lost to Alison Nicholas. Her three major championships all came at the LPGA Championship, in 1978, 1985, and 1989.
Lopez was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1987. She was a member of the United States Solheim Cup team in 1990 and was captain of the team in 2005.
Lopez is the only woman to win LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and the Vare Trophy in the same season (1978).
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