Toshiba Classic interview: Nancy Lopez

March 15, 2013

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MODERATOR: So we're really lucky to have Nancy Lopez here today. She's part of the Women's Business Day here at the Toshiba Classic, first time we've done this. It is presented by UPS this year. So Nancy obviously is a major legend in the golf industry, 48 time LPGA winner, three time Major winner on the LPGA Championship and just a master of the game. So it's really exciting that she's here today with us.

What can you tell us about your involvement today with the Women's Business Day?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, I was invited to come out here, and I said, well, I'm going to be out there anyway. I was at the Founders Club in Phoenix. And I think what I'm trying to do with my career now that I don't play as much, I do play on the Legends Tour, is I think to motivate women to play golf and to make them feel more comfortable when they're out on the golf course. I think they deserve to be there and sometimes women don't feel very comfortable being there, and I'm really trying to work on helping golf courses make them more women friendly, more inviting to the women so they can get out there and play golf. It's a great sport. I've done it for a long, long time and I think to be able to help these ladies today, we're going to do a little bit of golf after we have our lunch and give them a few tips so they can go out there and work on something and hopefully improve their game a little bit. It's going to be a lot of fun because there will be a lot of brilliant women here today and it's fun to be a part of that. I went to school trying to get a degree in engineering and only became a golfer, so I feel sometimes a little overwhelmed with all the brains that are around me at these kind of events. But I really enjoy it and I really enjoy people, so it's fun to be able to help out with the ladies.

MODERATOR: This event actually is a sold out event, more than 250 business women from Orange County. What is the one golf tip that you can give women that you have seen from all your years in the LPGA?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, first of all, I always encourage them to get out and practice a little bit because they want to be more comfortable on the golf course. But what I will teach them today is more about what they have to focus on and making them think of easy things to do, because there's times when you get too much information when you're trying to get lessons from someone and it gets very confusing. But my major lesson or the first point I'm going to give to them is make sure and keep your eye on the back of the ball. And when you do that, it helps you to keep your weight where it should be and then at impact if your eyes are still on the back of the ball your weight is where it should be, and then you of course swing your target. And they get it pretty easily. Because so many times as amateurs we don't do that and don't really focus on the right part of the ball to hit. So that's going to be one of my major lessons for them today.

MODERATOR: Do we have any questions from the media in attendance today for Nancy?

Q You talked about making golf courses more friendly for women. How do you propose what steps would you take to do that?

NANCY LOPEZ: I think it's just more of women getting out and talking to the head professionals there and see what they provide for the ladies of different golf courses. Because we've got a big force of women out there that play golf, that teach the game. There's more lady professional teachers. The LPGA teaching division has really gotten involved in that too, and I think it's just important to be able to do that. It's not like they wouldn't do it; it's like they never thought about it. So it's more of doing that.

It's funny, we always used to tell stories about the tour. Years ago when the LPGA would go to tournament sites, we'd always use the men's locker rooms because the women's wasn't really good for us to have. It was small, and the men's locker room was always bigger. And we always joked because they would always put a nice planter in the urinal so we would say, oh, that's not a urinal; it's a planter. So we kind of laughed about that stuff, but that's what happened years ago. Now we do use more women's locker rooms than we did before because they're paying more attention to making those places more women friendly.

Q What is the biggest barrier to women in the golf world as a beginner or even trying to move up in the ranks?

NANCY LOPEZ: I don't know. I think since I can remember when I was a little girl, there was always time when I could play the game as a woman and as a young person too, because if you didn't really play well, they didn't really want you to be out on the golf course. So there were just always rules and regulations. And now making women more comfortable, it's by really teaching them so they develop a golf game that's really good, that they feel confident enough to be out there. Golf has really always been kind of a men's sport, and women never really participated. Not very much when I was growing up. It's becoming more popular now, of course, but that's because there's a lot of efforts going on to help women understand that golf is a great game. A lot of times motherhood kind of stops that for a little bit, but I have three daughters. I took them all out on the golf course with me. I strapped them onto the cart with their little car seat and they went with me. It was great, you know. They enjoyed it. It's something you can do with your children. You don't really have to stop playing golf or not start playing golf because you have children. Golf is such a great family sport, and just really encouraging women to go out there and do something for themselves because I think as a mother myself, if I give myself time I'm really a better mother. And so to be able to encourage women to do that, it's good. It's funny because I know there was one husband that said that he was kind of mad at me because now his wife is beating him and wants to play with him a little bit more. But it's a lot of fun. And there's not so many golf widows anymore that say, I'm a golf widow. They just say, I play with my husband, or I've joined one of the ladies' organizations. And it's a nice social time for them to be out there on the golf course.

Q Do your daughters play golf?

NANCY LOPEZ: No. I have three daughters. My oldest started playing, but she got married and then got a job so she can't play as much. My middle daughter, she's six foot tall, wasn't really ever interested. She's always been in clothing design and things like that. So it was too much of a out in the sun type sport that she wasn't really interested in. And my youngest played with me once in a while, but none of her friends played. My dad never pushed me to play. I played because I wanted to and I loved it, and I just feel like I didn't want to push them to play unless they wanted to.

Q Did your dad play golf?

NANCY LOPEZ: My dad did play golf. He was a really good amateur player. He had about a 3 handicap, and he taught me more the mental part of the game and was just a very positive person in my life and helped me develop my game, more the mental part as much as, you know, the ability to swing a golf club.

Q What you talked about before, the confidence, that's what I noticed most in detriment to the women coming to the golf game in the beginning is that they're not confident with themselves being on the golf course, that the men can be very brutal obviously?

NANCY LOPEZ: I'm glad you said that. I didn't.

Q You know what I mean. So do you have a website or have you established a way that the women can come on board and listen to what you're saying right now that will give them confidence? Because the confidence that you have is going to encourage women's golf.

NANCY LOPEZ: I don't have a website for that, but certainly Golf Magazine is always encouraging women. They can go on their website. They do a lot of stuff in the magazine to encourage the ladies too to play the game. And we do a lot of teaching. We go to different clubs when they bring us in and try to get women comfortable with what they're doing. Some are comfortable; that really helps them a little bit more. It's all about performing. There's just been this issue where women are always slow, and I don't think that's really necessarily the truth. So it's really just getting everybody comfortable with that. But ladies, there's just a stigma about not being on a golf course. And why, you know? Why shouldn't they be out there? It's a great game. They don't have to play with the guys. They can play with other ladies that love the game and be more comfortable with that and develop that. I've seen some great amateur lady golfers in the last 10 years that have really developed. They're excited about working on the game. They become more involved in other ladies' organizations there at the golf course, and I think that that's a very positive thing for the ladies to be a part of.

Q So in your golf course designs are we seeing new sets of tees? We're moving our tees forward, which is very good. And is that something that you are spearheading in terms of your designs to make it women friendly or senior friendly?

NANCY LOPEZ: They just invited me to be part of that. The Tee It Forward program. And I designed the only golf course I really, really designed was at The Villages, Florida, 27 holes. I helped with a course in Manila with doing the ladies' tees, things like that. Maybe in Japan I probably did four or five holes years ago, helped design those. But I lost what was I talking about? What was your question again?

Q As far as working with the forward tees.

NANCY LOPEZ: Yes, okay. So what I did on my golf course, I give the ladies two tees. I gave the men three tees to play from. The thing about golf, and I said this would be really neat because I had a group of ladies come up to me, we were playing at a Pro Am. One of the ladies walked up and she said the other ladies were ladies she played with all the time, and they knew she didn't like this hole. So she wasn't going to play it. I said I like that. I like not to play a hole I don't like. They kind of helped her with that, but teeing it forward, I used to hit the ball a long way. I was one of the longest hitters on the LPGA Tour. Now I don't hit it as far, and I'm still trying to play the tees I used to play, and I'm not enjoying it. You know, I'm totally worn out by the time I finish 18. I'm not married anymore. I think everybody still thinks I'm married to Ray, but I'm not. I'm divorced. So when I play with my boyfriend he plays from back, and I play with him from back, and now I'm hitting my 4 club into the greens, and I used to hit 9 irons and 8 irons into par 4s. So I'm getting tired of that. And I'm like, why don't I just move up. I really kind of make my own tees up because women's tees are too short and the men's blue tees are a little too long. So I just make my own tee. There aren't really any markers. I just say this is the right yardage for me. And so now I'm hitting 7 irons and 8 irons into the par 4. I don't want to have to hit a wedge. I'm not going to be that far, but I want to be able to work on all parts of my game. And when I work on my long game, I go back to the men's tees when I am getting ready for a Legends event. Because sometimes too when you play it longer, the courses seem shorter. When you go and play them. And my thing is, I always told my ex husband, I said, Why are you teeing off way back there because when you hit it because I hit it very straight. When you hit it in the trees, you're so far back you can't punch it on the green. If you move up, you might still be able to get it on the green. So I don't know why we try to play the courses as long as we could, but I think golf is a game where you want to hit the green in regulation. You want to have chances for birdies because that's the excitement of golf is having those opportunities. When you tee it so far back, you don't have as many opportunities to have that good feeling about what golf is all about.

Q In terms of equipment, is there any movement or trends in that area I know equipment is getting lighter and better, but is there anything that is going to help make it more female friendly?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, my golf club company, Nancy Lopez Golf, is female friendly. We've been making only women's golf clubs for years, and it's great to let the ladies know that a lot of times, especially years ago, golf club companies didn't really make clubs just for women. I think they cut down on shafts and just kind of threw something together, and women weren't very important. But with my golf club company we have all kinds of options for the ladies because if you don't have the right golf club in your hand, you're not going to bring out the best talent that you have. There are so many husbands that try to be really nice and buy their wives golf clubs, and there's so many times that I have played with women and I'm like, Can I swing that golf club? And I'm swinging and it's heavier than mine even though it's a women's golf club. It's not even close to the right club. So by the time she is finished with 11 holes, she's exhausted. And you can't swing a golf club that swings you. You've got to have a golf club that really does bring your talent out, gives you the opportunity to play the best golf that you can. So women can go on and find something for them.

I have a clothing line too that we've finally have made women's sizes 1X, 2X and 3X, because not all women are tiny and petite. We do have small, very small sizes, size 2 and up, but we're giving all women the opportunity to play golf and look good when they're playing golf because it is important to them. Because for probably the last, I don't know, five, six years, ladies have come up to me that are not petite and say, Nancy, we can't find any golf clothes that fit us. Can you please do something for us? And so the gentleman that owns my company, we have worked very hard. I work with a clothes designer to make sure we get women out there who don't have to find some department store try and find something, as they call it, golfy. We want them to have golf clothes that make them look beautiful. And so I always thought when I looked goody played better. So we're giving ladies that opportunity also, not just with golf clubs.

Q I have another question if nobody else does. What advice can you give women who are first of all beginning, like they're just starting out? How do you get in the game? And secondly, how to find a coach or a teacher that works for you because I'm guessing it's not One Size Fits All?

NANCY LOPEZ: No, it's not. Well, for women that are starting golf, they should always invest in lessons with an LPGA teaching pro or PGA teaching pro. It's important to start off with good habits because when they start off with bad habits it's really hard to get rid of those. So if they can invest money, it's not really that expensive to take lessons for a little while and learn the game properly and etiquette to help them really become the players that they can. I always tell husbands and wives, don't take lessons from each other because it's not good for the marriage, first of all, and it's really better if you get somebody to help you. And I think the thing I have done with my clinics and I've done my golf schools, is make people or help them with what they have, what they have to work with. I've heard horror stories about some golf schools when the ladies and gentlemen that came to my golf schools, they left other golf schools in tears sometimes because they're trying to teach the ladies and the men a swing that's not theirs. You've got to work with what that person I mean, I have a different swing. I remember over the years when somebody was trying to change my swing, and that it was never going to work. So you have to feel comfortable with who you're going to. If you are more comfortable with a lady professional, you should stay with a lady because there are great teaching professionals out there, both men and women. So it's whatever you're comfortable with. But they need to be realistic. If they don't feel comfortable, even a little bit, they need to change and not just kind of stick it out, because you'll find somebody that you're comfortable with and that you really click with. And then you'll want to it's just like working out. You go and you work out, it's not good, you don't want to go back. So you need a teacher who makes you feel like you want to go back. I can't wait to learn something new. That's very important.

Q With the large amount of international women playing golf on tour and playing very well, would you like to see a sort of Presidents Cup for women?

NANCY LOPEZ: I think they've been working on that for awhile and hopefully it's going to happen. I think it's very important to include all the players that play in the LPGA Tour because we are a universal tour now. We have people from all over the world playing on our tour, and I think it's important to include them. There's just so much competition out there that hopefully we'll have something like that eventually.

Q Are you going to be heading out to the Kia Classic next week?

NANCY LOPEZ: No, I'm going to go home and then I'm going to go to Florida. I have a new granddaughter that was born in December. My oldest daughter, Ashley, had a little girl named Molly, and so I'm going to go visit her for a few days and play some golf in Florida. We have a Legends Tour event at The villages, Florida, which I've represented for years, and I have a home there. So I'm going to try to get ready for that. It's been hard being part of the Senior Tour because I was so competitive for so long and then had to learn how not to be competitive so I can enjoy the game of golf. And now I've got to be competitive again. It's really hard. I just kind of walk out there playing, and I'm like I really I'm having a great time. Why do I want to win? Why do I want to win? Oh, my gosh, makes me crazy. Now I'm getting tired of this because we have 45 players. I'm finishing 40th, 39th, I'm like, this is terrible. So I'm trying to work on my game more, trying to get focused again because I just have lost my focus. You know, I've I can focus, but after a few holes, after nine holes I start to think about what I am doing that night instead of focusing on my golf game. But I still hit good shots, it's just getting in the hole as fast as I used to. So it's been a lot of fun being on the Legends Tour. I've enjoyed that, but I've got to get that little fire back in there. I've got it, but I'm trying to still get it out on my golf game. So I'm going to be busy, doing a lot of corporate outings right now and a lot of charity work. I stay real busy.

Q How many rounds are you going to be playing tournament wise in 2013?

NANCY LOPEZ: We have six well, we have nine Legends events. I'm going to play about six. So it's only really a few, but hopefully we'll keep growing. Our tournaments are either two day or one day and then we have a Pro Am. So you really have to be sharp. And the players on the Legends Tour, the thing about the Legends Tour, that group of players or the players I think that really brought attention to the LPGA tour, Pat Bradley and Joanne Carter, Patty Sheehan, just all those players that really, American players too, that people watched as they grew up and really watched the game of golf at that time. So it's kind of fun to be with them and compete. They're a lot friendlier than they were when we were on the LPGA Tour. Everybody talks to each other now. But they're still very competitive and they play very well.

MODERATOR: Any other questions?

Q Are you staying all through the weekend to watch the golf?

NANCY LOPEZ: No, I'm going back to the Founders in Phoenix. It's one of the first LPGA events in the states. They've started a tradition where Hall of Famers tee off and lead the groups, and they're going to do it on Saturday. They usually did it today and I wasn't going to be able to participate, but I found out they were doing it on Saturday. So I'm flying back there to do that on Saturday morning and then headed back to the East Coast.

Q Doing these clinics, has it taught you anything about patience do you think?

NANCY LOPEZ: I've always been patient. Yeah, I've been blessed with patience, that's for sure. No, I love it. I mean, it's fun to watch people learn the game, and if they pick up one thing that can help their game get a little bit better, it's just fun to watch that.

Q Thank you.

Q I have one last question. What lessons has golf taught you about life and what can it teach women about golf and life?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, my dad really taught me a lot of what I became as a golfer, the patience, I was never a club thrower. I think with golf what I've learned most of all is how many friends I've really been able to accumulate through my life in golf. Golf is that kind of sport where you really make great friendships. I think that's what I have gotten most out of golf is all the friends I've acquired through all the years of traveling and what a great game it is to bring us all together. It's just that kind of game. So, you know, with my dad, he was just always positive about it and wanted me to play the game, loved it himself, and he helped me to love the game just as much. It's a great game. I know when I am out there, I think everybody has that same feeling. They think that little ball sitting there is really easy to hit, and it's not. But the desire to want to be better and to hit the ball better, it kind of brings that out in everybody. Where other sports you really don't think about it as much, but golf you see really bad things happening out there and then you hit that great shot and it's worth it just to see that one great shot. But you do learn patience a lot with golf. The tradition of golf, there's still a lot of tradition when so much tradition has gone away from everything that I can remember growing up. Golf is still very traditional, the way we dress, the way we handle ourselves as men and women out there, there's a lot of great tradition in golf. I think that's the best part of it.

Q Do you plan to teach your granddaughter?

NANCY LOPEZ: I am. I am. I'm going to teach Molly to play golf. I told my daughter, Ashley, her last name is Huey. I said if Molly I don't care if she turns professional. I said I want her to play golf and enjoy it, but if they ever do, they have to change her last name to Lopez so it will be Molly Lopez so they know who taught her. That was a joke, of course. But, yeah, I want to teach Molly to play. She's a little redhead too which is just adorable. My son in law is redheaded and Ashley looks like me, dark hair, dark skin. And when Molly came out I was surprised that she had red hair. Of course, not really because he has red hair, but I never thought she'd come out with red hair. It was quite a shock.

MODERATOR: Well, thank you so much.

NANCY LOPEZ: Thank you, thank you.