Nancy Lopez is a former standout on the LPGA Tour whose winning personality matched her amazing golf talent – a combination that tremendously raised the popularity of her sport among golf fans everywhere and encouraged countless young women to take up golf. She had a magnetic smile that came across as well on TV as it did in person, drawing new fans to women's golf. In 1978, she burst onto the LPGA tournament scene with an historic run of five consecutive victories in her first full season, and by year's end, she had won nine times, including first place at the prestigious LPGA Championship. She is an enduring star who would go on to win more than 50 tournaments in her career.
Nancy Lopez was born on Jan. 6, 1957, in Torrance, California, to Domingo and Marina Lopez. Her parents soon moved to Roswell, New Mexico, where her father introduced her to golf when she was 8 years old. He was her only golf instructor. Nancy learned to play on a nine-hole municipal course, but that didn't stop her from winning the New Mexico Amateur when she was only 12 and the U.S. Girls' Junior at age 15. She played two seasons at the University of Tulsa before turning professional. She married baseball star Ray Knight in 1982. They have three daughters.
Lopez was the first player to win the LPGA Rookie of the Year and LPGA Player of the Year awards in the same year – 1978. She topped off these achievements by capturing the Vare Trophy for having the lowest scoring average on tour. She still is the only woman to achieve all three LPGA honors in the same year. Her second year as a professional resulted in a second LPGA Player of the Year award, which she won again in 1985 and 1988. She won the Vare Trophy three times. She also played on the 1976 U.S. Curtis Cup team, the 1990 U.S. Solheim Cup team and led the Americans to victory at the 2005 Solheim Cup as U.S. team captain. Her lowest official score was 64. Her cumulative career winnings were $5,320,877, and she was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1989. Her last victory came at the 1997 Chick-Fil-A Charity Championship, and the last year she earned tournament money was 2002. She founded the Nancy Lopez Golf line of women's golf clothing and accessories in Canada in 1998. The line was brought to the United States in 2007.
Lopez's first professional victory came in 1978 at the Bent Tree Classic, the first of 52 career titles, including 48 on the LPGA Tour. She was the youngest player to reach 10 and then 20 victories. She won the LPGA Championship in 1978, 1985 and 1989. She never won the U.S. Women's Open but placed second in 1975, 1977, 1989 and then again in 1997, more than 20 years after her first U.S. Women's Open appearance.
Her long list of awards includes being named by "Golf Digest" as Player of the Decade for her achievements from 1977 through 1986. In November 1989, she was inducted into the PGA World Golf Hall of Fame. The Women's Sports Foundation gave her the Flo Hyman Award in 1992, and she earned the prestigious Bob Jones Award from the USGA in 1998 in recognition of her "distinguished sportsmanship in the game of golf." In 2000, she was granted the Old Tom Morris Award by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.