by Jeff Skinner
The Memorial Tournament is Jack’s baby. Nicklaus has poured his heart and soul into this tournament for years. Nicklaus loved Muirfield so much he named his hometown course after it. And he loved The Masters so much he modeled his tournament after it. Everything is done “just so” at The Memorial just as it is at Augusta National. Nicklaus and his troops work diligently to care for the players, the press and the fans. Nicklaus leaves nothing to chance and his tournament ranks high among players on tour.
Nicklaus makes it a point each year to honor a person who has had a great impact on and contributed to the game of golf. This year’s honoree is World Golf and LPGA Hall of Fame Member Nancy Lopez. Lopez single handedly dragged the LPGA into the national spotlight when she arrived on tour in 1978.
From the Memorial Biography,” The native Californian won nine times in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour in 1978, including five consecutive wins and her first of three LPGA Championships. She led the Tour in earnings and received both Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors. That same year she also won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. Lopez followed up her inaugural season by winning eight more times in 1979 to repeat as Player of the Year while winning a second Vare Trophy and money title. She played only half seasons in 1983 and 1984 due to the birth of the first of her three children, Ashley, but Lopez came back in 1985 to again win Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy and the money title. Her stroke average of 70.73 in 1985 set an LPGA record.”
In 1990, Lopez was part of the inaugural Solheim Cup, playing for the U.S. team, and she captained the victorious U.S. team in 2005. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. Lopez won her 48th tournament in 1997 at the age of 40 and finished second for the fourth time in the U.S. Women’s Open. She officially retired from tournament golf at the age of 45 to focus on her family
In 1998, Lopez was honored by the U.S. Golf Association with the Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship in golf, and in 2000 she received the Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America for her lifetime commitment to the game.
The Nancy Lopez Award was created in 2000 to recognize the world’s most outstanding female amateur golfer each year while increasing awareness of the accomplishments of women in amateur golf.
Nancy Lopez was a special talent and a special person. She was able to balance a Hall of Fame career and raise a family while doing it. She had an amazing run and being recognized by Jack’s Memorial Tournament is a fitting tribute to such an accomplished golfer.