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Nancy Lopez weighs in on Nelly Korda's win streak


Nancy Lopez first met 11-year-old Nelly Korda at the 2009 PING Junior Solheim Cup. At the time, Lopez was serving as captain of the American squad, a team that included Korda’s 17-year-old big sister, Jessica, who would go on to win six LPGA Tour titles. 

 

A decade later, Nelly – who had notched a couple of LPGA Tour wins herself by then - earned a spot on the 2019 Solheim Cup team alongside Jessica, and both Kordas landed in Lopez’s “pod” – a cluster of four American players from the 12-player roster that Juli Inkster assigned to Assistant Captain Lopez for communication, mentorship, moral support and camaraderie during the biggest international team competition in women’s golf.

 

“I watched Nelly play a lot of golf up to that point,” says Lopez. “I remember saying, ‘When Nelly realizes how good she is, she is going to dominate.’”

 

Over the next five years, Nelly Korda would win 11 more LPGA titles, including two major championships, for a total of 13 LPGA Tour career victories since her first trip to the winner’s circle in 2018.

 

Five of those wins have come in her first five appearances of this 2024 season, making her only the 3rd player in the LPGA Tour’s 75-year history to win five consecutive starts. The first to do it?

 

Nancy Lopez.


“I was 21, so I was also the youngest,” chuckles Lopez, 67, who won five straight tournaments in 1978, her rookie season on the LPGA Tour. Lopez’s fellow LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Annika Sörenstam matched that record achievement across two seasons at age 35, winning the last two events of 2004 and the first three events of 2005.  Korda, 25, clinched matching the record with a big win at this past weekend’s Chevron Championship in Houston, the first major of the year.

 

“It was great to see Nelly’s energy at the Chevron,” says Lopez, a Chevron past champion who captured three major titles on her way to carding 48 LPGA Tour wins from 1978-2002. “Nelly is getting more comfortable with the attention, and she is really in control of her game right now. My hat is off to her.”

 

Lopez knows a thing or two about attention. After her 5th consecutive win in her first season on Tour, Sports Illustrated appeared at her next stop in Hershey, Pennsylvania for a cover photo shoot. Lopez was pulled in a lot of different directions for interviews that week, making it even more challenging to keep her streak alive. The 1978 Lady Keystone Open was eventually won by LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley; Lopez finished 10 strokes back.

 

“I lost focus,” admits Lopez, but without regret. “Honestly, I was tired. I was hungry. On the back nine I started thinking about double cheeseburgers over every putt.  Mentally, I was just shot.” No one could fault her. It was a great run - an incredibly rare feat in golf, and unprecedented on her Tour.

 

The bar was set by Nancy Lopez.

 

26 years would pass until Annika matched it, and another 20 years lapsed until Nelly came along to remind us how hard it can be to win on Tour, let alone five times in a row. So how has Korda managed to make it look so… easy?



“You get in a zone where everything is easy,” says Lopez, one of very few professional golfers who can answer that question.

 

“I remember feeling like it was just me, the ball, and my target. The crowds, the possibility of making a mistake, anything negative – it all disappeared. Nothing bothered me. I felt good and confident over every single shot,” recounts Lopez, who much like Korda, was known for her long, accurate drives and remarkable consistency with the flatstick as the wins added up. “It is an amazing feeling to be able to visualize all of your shots and execute them – to see the putt and know it’s going in the hole.”

 

Lopez sees a lot of herself in Korda, with one exception that in her observation, will simply take time. “Nelly is shy by nature,” notes Lopez. “I was not shy. I was comfortable with people and have always loved the interaction. I may have sacrificed a lot of me during those times, but I did it for the Tour. I wanted everything to get bigger and better, and Nelly has the chance to do the same on a whole new level. I hope she accepts this challenge to carry the Tour forward, especially as an American player.”

 

With so many talented women from all over the world currently teeing it up on the LPGA Tour, Korda will have her work cut out for her when she goes for her 6th win in six starts at her next scheduled appearance in the Cognizant Founders Cup May 9-12 in Clifton, N.J.

 

Lopez admits in her hay day, she was primarily focused on herself, the golf course and posting her best score. There were times, however, she relished the head-to-head competition that evolved on the back nine on any given Sunday with some of the best golfers in the history of the game.

 

“I was focused on playing the course, not the players,” notes Lopez. “But I will say, I loved going up against [JoAnne] Carner or [Betsy] King or Bradley those last few holes, you know, the best players back then, because they just made me better.

 

If the same holds true for Korda as she is continually pressed by the biggest names on today’s LPGA Tour, her best golf may be yet to come.

 

And Nancy Lopez will have called it.



Shared from FORE! Fridays, a weekly e-pub of stories and conversation starters designed to help you look good, play better and know more when it comes to golf.



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