LPGA legend Nancy Lopez, who won captained the U.S. Handa Cup team to victory two years ago at Palm Aire Country Club, spoke to a group of approximately 60 Symetra Tour professionals at Sara Bay Country Club on Tuesday afternoon about everything from positive thinking on the golf course to course management. It was part of the LPGA’s player development program. Sarasota is special to Lopez as she captured her first and 35th career victories at Bent Tree Country Club. Her 35th career win sealed her spot in the hall-of-fame.
“You can’t fear failure,” repeated Lopez several times. “You’ve got to build confidence and go for pins. Don’t let negative things enter your mind. You must commit to the best swing and best effort and hopefully the ball goes right to the pin.”
Lopez was on hand at Sara Bay Country Club with her company, Nancy Lopez Golf Adventures. She spoke with LPGA Teaching Professionals Sue Powers of Pelican Pointe Country Club in Venice and Teresa Zamboni.
“When I played with my dad, he watched when I was unhappy and would ask ‘do you want to shoot 39 or 40?’ and I would say 39 and he told me that when I’m mad I shoot 40,” explained Nancy about how she came up with the “Play Happy” slogan. “My dad truly believed that when I was out there playing I should always be smiling.”
She also discussed her practice habits.
“I used to practice 5-feet and in for hours because that’s where we feel the most pressure,” said Lopez. “I felt so confident about a 5-footer, it felt like a 2-footer. I would practice 5-footers until I couldn’t stand anymore.”
Lopez also talked about dealing with nerves when she held the lead. A little known fact is that Lopez also finished in second place 49 times.
“It’s OK to feel pressure, once pressure becomes your friend, you feel comfortable,” explained Lopez. “Don’t beat yourself up. I really thrived on the crowds and the excitement. I just enjoyed the walk.”
Following the hour and a half seminar, players had the opportunity to take pictures with Lopez and pick her brain further. Second-year professional Elizabeth Tong took full advantage.
“It was awesome, I jumped on the opportunity to come inside and listen to what she had to say because she is a legend,” said Tong, who played in college at Indiana. “She knows so much and has so many experiences to share.”
Tong talked putting after the meeting with Lopez, who is widely regarded as one of the great putters of all-time.
“She relies on feel and I know a lot of players these days set up all these drills on the practice green and just try to get the ball on line and they lose the feel,” said Tong. “She won by really feeling out the greens so it was really good to hear that.”
Immediately after the session, Tong went to the practice putting green at Sara Bay to work on feel.
“When I come and talk to young players that want to be on the LPGA, my goal is to relate to them,” said Lopez. “I was in their shoes many, many, many years ago. I feel like I can give them the hope and desire to say you can go on the LPGA and win one or two or three tournaments.”