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2011 : Nancy Lopez

2011 Memorial Tournament Honoree

Image Credit: http://blog.nj.com

The 2011 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide was played in honor of LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, continuing the unique tradition started by Jack Nicklaus that each year’s Tournament should be devoted, in part, to recognizing a person, living or dead, who has contributed to the game of golf.

Lopez, with her many achievements on the golf course and her winning personality that helped grow the women’s professional game, certainly was a deserving recipient.
Born January 6, 1957 in Torrance, California, Lopez turned professional in 1977 and went on to amass 48 wins on the LPGA Tour, including three major championships. While she dominated the Tour in creating her Hall of Fame career, it was her charisma that brought greater attention and popularity to ladies golf. Lopez helped define the LPGA and its personality over the first two decades she was on Tour.

Lopez was a prodigy at an early age. She won the New Mexico state amateur championship at age 12 and went on to win two U.S. Girls Junior Amateur Championships in 1972 and ‘74. In 1975, at the age of 18, Lopez finished second in the U.S. Women’s Open. The following year Lopez was named All-American at the University of Tulsa as well as Female Athlete of the Year after capturing the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women national golf title. She left college after her sophomore year in 1977 and turned pro. That same year, she finished second again in the U.S. Women’s Open.

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.

Twice named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, in 1978 and 1985, Lopez played only four tournaments in 1986, when her second daughter, Erinn, 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, Torri, was born. In 1992 she won twice while continuing to play abbreviated schedules - from 11 to 18 tournaments - through 2002.

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.