Former golfer Nancy Lopez serves as an advocate for young golfers

KOHLER — The 2012 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run wrapped up Sunday, July 8th and Se Ri Pack’s influence on the South Korean golfers is quite evident. Two of the top three finishers are from South Korea. The winner was 24-year-old Na Yeon Choi. Similarly, Nancy Lopez can be looked at as one of the sport’s trail blazers.

With 48 wins to her name, Nancy Lopez is easily one of the greatest American female golfers.

At the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run, Lopez was well off her championship game.

“I came here with a good golf game and left pretty deflated,” Lopez said.

She wasn’t without her sense of humor, however, as she and her playing partners famously attached white towels to their clubs, and waved them down the 18th fairway.

“I was definitely surrendering to Blackwolf Run. I was really glad I was missing the cut because it kicked my butt!” Lopez said.

Now, 14 years later, she is still an incredible ambassador for, and a revered personality in the sport. Though she never won a U.S. Women’s Open, she’s really not interested in jumping back on the links for another chance.

“I’d love to be out there again, but I remember the pressure, and I loved it then, but now I’m like ‘I don’t know if I could deal with it now!'” Lopez said.

Perhaps that’s why she’s reached out to younger golfers, like Lizette Salas. The two have texted back and forth leading up to Sunday’s round.

“She’s just everything to me and for young Latinas out there. She’s obviously made a great impact on the sport and she still is making an impact and allowing youngsters to follow in her footsteps,” Salas said.

The South Korean dominance in the sport, and the American disappearance is not lost on Lopez. She has three daughters of her own — none of whom play golf. However, she has some ideas on how golf could grow among young American girls.

“If we could focused, that golf is a great sport. It’s something that they can do for a long time. It’s a good life-building type experience,” Lopez said.

Lopez is not alone in acknowledging the disparity.

“You just have to look at the junior golf. That is the future of golf, and if we don’t put our efforts towards that, then who knows,” golfer Paula Creamer said.

Lopez likes that the game has changed — noting the fitness level of this generation’s golfers and their ability to handle the schedules and demands better than her colleagues ever could, but she still believes in moderation and an attitude that includes smiling and laughing through the wins and the losses.

“Most of all, enjoy the game. It’s a great game,” Lopez said.

Lopez says she has joked with course designer Pete Dye about the difficulty of Blackwolf Run.

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