Nancy Lopez Bio: One of LPGA's Greatest Golfers

Nancy Lopez in her rookie pro season of 1978.
Malcolm Clarke/Keystone/Getty Images

Golfer Nancy Lopez, whose best years were in the late 1970s and 1980s, was one of the best and most popular LPGA players ever. She burst onto the scene in the late 1970s with one of the longest winning streaks in tour history. Most golf historians rank Lopez among the five best LPGA golfers of all-time.

  • Date of birth: Jan. 6, 1957
  • Place of birth: Torrance, California

Wins and Major Trophies

  • LPGA Tour victories: 48
  • Major Championship wins: 3

Lopez's first LPGA win was in 1978 and her last was in 1997. Her 48 wins rank seventh on the list of golfers with the most LPGA career wins. (All her tournament victories are listed below.)

Lopez's three wins in majors all happened in the LPGA Championship (now called the Women's PGA Championship), in 1978, 1985 and 1989.

Awards and Honors for Nancy Lopez

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
  • LPGA Tour money leader, 1978, 1979, 1985
  • LPGA Tour Vare Trophy winner (low scoring average), 1978, 1979, 1985
  • LPGA Tour player of the year, 1978, 1979, 1985, 1989
  • Member, U.S. team, 1976 Curtis Cup
  • Member, U.S. team, 1990 Solheim Cup
  • Captain, U.S. team, 2005 Solheim Cup

Nancy Lopez Biography

Nancy Lopez burst onto the golf scene in a blaze of glory, then settled in for a long ride—interrupted by the birth of her children—that inevitably took her to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Lopez's father, Domingo, introduced her to the game at age eight and tutored her development. Born in California, Lopez grew up in New Mexico and she won the New Mexico Women's Amateur at age 12. Then Lopez won the U.S. Junior Girls Amateur Championship in 1972 and 1974. Playing the U.S. Women's Open as a 17-year-old amateur in 1975, Lopez finished tied for second.

In 1976 Lopez was named All-American for her collegiate play at Tulsa University. She left college after her sophomore year and turned pro in 1977. That year she finished second again in the U.S. Women's Open.

In her first full season on the LPGA Tour, 1978, Lopez's charming personality, megawatt smile and amazing golf propelled her into superstardom. She won nine titles total, including five tournaments in a row. She made the cover of Sports Illustrated, won the Vare Trophy, and was named both Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year.

What did Lopez do for an encore? She won another eight times in 1979.

Lopez won multiple times in each year from 1980 to 1984, although she played only half-seasons in 1983 and 1984 due to the birth of her first child.

Playing full time again in 1985, Lopez posted five wins, five seconds and five thirds, won the money title, the scoring title and the Player of the Year Award.

She played only four tournaments in 1986 when her second daughter was born. But again, Lopez came back to win multiple times in 1987-89—three times each in 1988 and 1989—and once again won Player of the Year honors in 1988.

Her schedule was curtailed again in the early 1990s when her third daughter was born. But in 1992 she won twice. Lopez continued to play short schedules, from 11 to 18 tournaments, through 2002, then in 2003 cut back to just a couple events a year before eventually retiring.

There is no doubt that Nancy Lopez is one of the greats in the history of women's golf and the best player from the late 1970s to late 1980s. But there is one gaping hole on her resume: a lack of more majors, and specifically, never winning the U.S. Women's Open.

Lopez finished second in that event four times, the last coming in 1997 when she became the first golfer to play all four rounds of the Women's Open in the 60s, yet still lost to Alison Nicholas.

Lopez and husband Ray Knight, a former All-Star baseball player, have been married since 1982. Their three daughters are named Ashley, Erinn and Torri.

Nancy Lopez Trivia

  • Lopez never won the U.S. Women's Open but finished second several times. One of those was in 1977 when something happened that Lopez still jokes caused her to fall short: In the final round, Lopez ripped her pants.
  • Lopez is the only golfer to win LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and the Vare Trophy in the same season (1978).
  • Her first LPGA win was the 1978 Sarasota Classic (then called the Bent Tree Classic), which she won again in 1987 for her 35th to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Quote, Unquote

  • Nancy Lopez: "The simpler I keep things, the better I play."
  • Nancy Lopez: "Do your best, one shot at a time and then move on. Remember that golf is just a game."

List of Nancy Lopez's LPGA Tour Wins

  • 1978 Bent Tree Classic
  • 1978 Sunstar Classic
  • 1978 Greater Baltimore Classic
  • 1978 Coca-Cola Classic
  • 1978 Golden Lights Championship
  • 1978 LPGA Championship
  • 1978 Bankers Trust Classic
  • 1978 Colgate European Open
  • 1978 Colgate Far East Open
  • 1979 Sunstar Classic
  • 1979 Sahara National Pro-Am
  • 1979 Women's International
  • 1979 Coca-Cola Classic
  • 1979 Golden Lights Championship
  • 1979 Lady Keystone Open
  • 1979 Colgate European Open
  • 1979 Mary Kay Classic
  • 1980 Women's Kemper Open
  • 1980 The Sarah Coventry
  • 1980 Rail Charity Golf Classic
  • 1981 Arizona Copper Classic
  • 1981 Colgate-Dinah Shore
  • 1981 The Sarah Coventry
  • 1982 J&B Scotch Pro-Am
  • 1982 Mazda Japan Classic
  • 1983 Elizabeth Arden Classic
  • 1983 J&B Scotch Pro-Am
  • 1984 Uniden LPGA Invitational
  • 1984 Chevrolet World Championship of Women's Golf
  • 1985 Chrysler-Plymouth Classic
  • 1985 LPGA Championship
  • 1985 Mazda Hall of Fame Championship
  • 1985 Henredon Classic
  • 1985 Portland Ping Championship
  • 1987 Sarasota Classic
  • 1987 Cellular One-Ping Golf Championship
  • 1988 Mazda Classic
  • 1988 AI Star/Centinela Hospital Classic
  • 1988 Chrysler-Plymouth Classic
  • 1989 Mazda LPGA Championship
  • 1989 Atlantic City Classic
  • 1989 Nippon Travel-MBS Classic
  • 1990 MBS LPGA Classic
  • 1991 Sara Lee Classic
  • 1992 Rail Charity Golf Classic
  • 1992 Ping-Cellular One LPGA Golf Championship
  • 1993 Youngstown-Warren LPGA Classic
  • 1997 Chick-fil-A Charity Championship