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Playing By Heart

Twenty years ago this week, I won my fifth straight tournament,
the Bankers Trust Classic in Rochester, N.Y. It was a magical
week. In the last round I hit a ball right off a spectator's
head, but things were going so well for me that the ball stayed
in play and the spectator, Dr. Jerry Mesolella, became a friend
for life.

That might be my most famous win, but there was one that was
even more emotional. It happened in February '78 at the Bent
Tree Classic in Sarasota, Fla. I was 19, I'd had my card for
only a few months, and there I was, walking up the 18th fairway
with a chance for my first win as a pro. I must have looked
nervous, but nerves weren't why I was having trouble seeing
straight. It was memories I was fighting. My mother had died of
a heart attack four months earlier. She was only 52. She had
spent 10 years driving me to tournaments, changing family plans,
sacrificing so that I could play golf. Now she wasn't here to
see it pay off. Pictures of her kept running through my head.
But I kept it together, parred the 18th and won by one shot.
Then, when I got to the clubhouse and called my dad in New
Mexico to tell him I'd won and say how I'd been thinking of her,
the tears came. That's how I spent my most emotional moment in
golf, me and Dad crying on the phone.

Today, as a member of Team Bayer along with Tom Kite and Bob
Murphy, I play for the American Heart Association. We've raised
almost $205,200 for the AHA's stroke and heart research. It's a
cause that's close to my heart, and not just because of my
mother. My father suffers from congestive heart failure. My
husband, Ray Knight, has hypertension. Fortunately, Dad's still
with us, and Ray, thanks to the right medication--and, I think,
the fact that he's not managing!--has his blood pressure under

I'm keeping it together, too, even when I think of how it all

Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez has won 48 times on the LPGA tour.

COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND BITTERSWEET For Lopez, 1978 wasn't only about winning. [Nancy Lopez]