Nancy Lopez aims for top-10 finishes in return to LPGA Tour
March 6, 2007 6:22pm CST
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Nancy Lopez knows she might not be able to win on the LPGA Tour as a 50-year-old, but that's not going to stop her from trying. Lopez said she plans to play five or six LPGA Tour events this year, starting with the $2.6 million Ginn Open in Reunion, Fla., April 12-15. She's played in only 11 tour events since 2002, and she hasn't had a top-10 finish since 1997. "I know I have to get in real good shape to try to compete with the young girls, but I think I still have the mental capacity to go out there and play good golf," Lopez said Tuesday at a news conference before a University of Nebraska at Omaha women's athletics fundraiser. "Let's just see if I can make it in the hole a little faster than I have the last few years." Lopez spent the past couple years working to improve her fitness and has lost more than 30 pounds. She said she was inspired to come back after captaining the winning U.S. team in the 2005 Solheim Cup, which pits Europe's top women golfers against their American counterparts in a competition similar to the men's Ryder Cup. "Watching Paula (Creamer) and Natalie (Gulbis) and all the young players hit the ball, I would sit there and say, 'I remember when I hit it just like that,"' Lopez said. "It just motivated me to think maybe I can do it one more time. Let's see what my body says." Lopez said it would be impossible for her to be competitive on Tour without 21st-century equipment, which allows older players to keep up with long hitters. "I still keep the ball in the middle of the fairway, my putting is still very strong," she said. "There's going to be a nerve check when I get back out there, because I haven't been under pressure for quite a long time." Lopez pumped life into the LPGA Tour as a 21-year-old rookie in 1978, when she won a record five straight titles on her way to nine victories that year. A fan favorite, Lopez attracted large galleries while playing her way to 48 career titles, including three majors. She was the face of women's golf for most of two decades and relishes her role as one of the game's great ambassadors. Lopez also said she feels sorry for Michelle Wie, who was anointed the next great women's golfer even before she turned pro in 2005. Wie has yet to win as a professional and has earned more distinction for her failures against men. Lopez reiterated her advice to Wie, saying the teen phenom should prove she can beat the best in the women's game before she tries to compete against men. "I think she should be winning by now," Lopez said. "Even if she played amateur golf for a while, I think she probably would have won an LPGA event by now. I don't think she'll win a PGA event." Wie has earned millions, mainly from endorsements and appearance fees, yet her most significant victory remains the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, which she won at 13. She's made seven starts on the PGA Tour and missed the cut each time, most recently by 14 shots at the Sony Open in January. Lopez said Wie needs to define herself in the women's game. "I know she's making a lot of money, but eventually, if you don't win, the money will go away," Lopez said. "I think whoever is guiding her and whatever direction they're taking her, they need to give her a hug and let her be a little girl for a while and not make her grow up so quickly."