(AP) — Nancy Lopez just wants to be clear. The Hall of Fame golfer isn’t making a comeback or a return to competitive golf, not that she ever really retired.
All she wants is to play more in the future and help the LPGA Tour.
“I never said the word retire, never have retired, don’t want to retire because I’m going to stay involved as much as I can, and I’d like to play some of the LPGA Tour if my body enables me to,” Lopez told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “And the reason I feel that way with Torri, my youngest has one more year in high school, and when she’s gone, I’m like, ‘OK. What am I going to do. I can go and twiddle my thumbs, or should I do something like play golf again?’
“It’s my favorite sport, and I love being part of the LPGA as much as I can.”
Lopez originally discussed her 18-month plan Sunday to play more LPGA events after her youngest of three daughters heads off to college while playing in a pro-am in Nashville hosted by country star Vince Gill. The Tennessean newspaper story wound up scrolling on TV, exciting people so much that even friends called Lopez asking if she were returning to the LPGA Tour.
She is the winner of 48 career LPGA titles, the woman who thrilled fans by winning five straight tournaments in 1978 and the captain who oversaw the United States taking back the Solheim Cup from Europe in 2005.
Now Lopez is 52, someone who scaled back her schedule six years ago to focus on her family. She hasn’t made a LPGA cut since 2004, and that was only one out of five events. A comeback attempt in 2007 with six tournaments resulted in a scoring average of 81.83 that was the highest of her career. She played in three events in 2008.
With her plan, Lopez hopes to be able to play between five and 10 events, something that won’t happen until 2011 at the earliest. First, Lopez is focused on being captain of the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team playing Aug. 17-19 in Aurora, Ill. She might play in Rochester and Toledo later this year and has been working with a trainer to improve her conditioning.
Then Lopez plans surgery on her left foot at the end of this year to correct hammertoe, a condition that bends toes at the middle joint and makes walking painful. If that procedure, which involves breaking the toes goes well, then the same surgery on her right foot will follow.
“Age makes you start thinking about how you’re going to feel when you get to 100. I don’t want to feel like I do now double that,” she said.
Lopez hopes the surgery will help her feel like she’s 45. The woman who used to wonder what Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were doing still competing in their 60s doesn’t want to just sit around, not while her putter still works and a game that she thinks will follow with some work.
“Being a Hall of Famer, it really kind of enables me to play in any event I want to play in,” she said. “That really opens the door more for me to play whenever I want.”
And she wants to be involved with the game, and the tour, she loves.
“Be there to support them, be there to support our commissioner and just be there for the LPGA Tour because as I said to many people it’s our tour, but it’s still my tour too even though I’m not playing full-time. It’s still my tour, and I want to help it grow,” she said.