Skip to main content
Original Issue


It was a splendid tournament. To be sure, a trillion gallons of
water fell out of the sky on the weekend, and red mud sucked at
everyone's shoes, and lightning sent the few brave spectators
scurrying for their cars. And no, it's not ideal to hand out
crystal trophies and first-place checks to someone who has only
completed two rounds of golf. But they were given to the right
someone: Nancy Lopez.

Let's put it this way: If we have to endure meteor impacts,
earthquakes and aluminum-siding salesmen in order to see Nancy's
smiling face on a Sunday, so be it. Not since the 1993
Youngstown-Warren LPGA Classic--or for 68 straight tournaments,
if you prefer a more linear measure of frustration--have we been
able to share a victory with the LPGA's most beloved Hall of
Famer. On Sunday she won the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in
Stockbridge, Ga., by playing roughly four holes over eight
hours. And although only one of the holes counted (her 18th hole
of round 2, left over from Saturday, when play was suspended for
darkness), Lopez said afterward that she was thrilled. "It's a
little awkward," she allowed, referring to weather that left the
Chick-fil-A a bit low on calories, but added, "A win is a win."

If you've been paying attention, you know that a Nancy Lopez win
is something more: a milestone. Sunday's was her 48th official
LPGA victory, giving her 13 more than her nearest active rival,
Patty Sheehan. Lopez, at 40, is fifth on the alltime money list
and would be first if she hadn't decided a decade ago to pay
more attention to her children than to her chipping. A year or
so back she looked at the laugh lines on her face and then at
the bottom line of her play and concluded that she had to make a
choice. "It was either get myself more prepared," she said, "or
quit playing golf."

Since then, exercise has trimmed 40 pounds off her figure, while
determination has tightened her practice regimen. Lopez didn't
win in 1996, but she tied for second twice and nearly won her
fourth major at last summer's du Maurier Classic. This season
she had played in just five tournaments before Stockbridge, but
had shot six rounds in the 60s, was seventh in scoring average
at 71.21 and ranked 19th on the money list. "I think the other
players saw a seriousness in me," she said on Sunday, "that I
was really trying to get back my golf game."

Corny as it sounds, most everyone with a ponytail and golf shoes
seemed to be rooting for her. "She's a rare person," said Deb
Richard, who was one shot behind Lopez on Sunday afternoon when
Zeus started throwing thunderbolts at Eagle's Landing Country
Club. It was a rara avis, however, that alerted Lopez that her
48th win might be imminent. Saturday evening, in light so dim
that she didn't actually see what happened, Lopez holed out an
80-yard sand wedge shot from the 13th fairway. Her eagle put her
atop the leader board at seven under par, and seven under held
up the next morning when Richard, Tina Barrett and Karrie Webb
finished round 2 at five-under 139.

As for the third and scheduled-to-be-final round, it lasted a
hiccup-and-a-half. Lopez bogeyed number 2 but reached the fringe
of the par-5 3rd in two. That's when the storm horns honked,
announcing the arrival of the Gulf of Mexico (via air mail) and,
ultimately, the annulment of round 3. The cancellation
disappointed her, Lopez said later, "because I wanted to see how
I was when the pressure was really on."

She shouldn't be concerned. Our panel of psychics reports that
Lopez would have shot 37-34-71, with another eagle at the
13th--good enough to beat a charging Laura Davies by two
strokes. Anyway, the important thing is not the duration of a
victory but its durability. And a Nancy Lopez win, history tells
us, wears very well.

COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND [Nancy Lopez golfing]