Tuesday, May 2, 2017

We Regret the Error: A Nod to Nancy Lopez

For some God-foresaken reason, my eye never fails to be drawn to the bottom of the page—the place where an editor admits and regrets the error. The mistakes are seldom egregious, but the wrong needs to be made right, and the correction needs a place to stand. I don't know why I take inventory of these matters, but I do. And, watching the latest episode of Feherty made me realize that it's my turn to own my mistake. My apologies to the audience.
In my posting "A Baby Shower Game for Expectant Athletes, Coaches and Serena Williams Part B," my primary goal was to feature female coaches and athletes from a variety of sports. I sought diversity in their ethnicity and given the age of most women at a baby shower (which can be multi-generational), I wanted most of the examples to be within a certain time period. At the shower for my friend Haley, I had pro athletes who played in the 80s through today. I was happy to profile Kim Clijsters, Annika Sorenstam, Evonne Goolagong, Misty May-Treanor, Muffet McGraw and Dara Torres to name a few, but there is one athlete I sincerely regret leaving off the list: Nancy Lopez.

Lopez is one of the best female golfers of all time, and possibly the most successful American golfer to have played on the LPGA. With 48 tour events to her name, she won 3 majors. She served as captain of the Solheim Cup and made strides in a sport when far fewer opportunities existed for women. Lopez, who was raised in a small town in New Mexico, was coached by her father; she is proud of her Latina heritage.

During her interview with David Ferhety, Lopez shared her personal story, she was adopted by her birth mother's brother. Nancy opened up about her joys and struggles on the tour—missing a putt to win a US Open later in her career, the sacrifices that her dad in particular made so that she could pursue golf and much more. She was emotional and yet vulnerable, shedding a few tears and regrouping with grace. I saw in her a woman not unlike myself and many others I admire. 

Women have been conditioned to believe if they are professional they cannot be emotional; deep feelings are a sign of weakness. I do not doubt that men feel this pressure as well, however in sport like golf (according to the USGA 78% of all people who played golf in 2016 are male) the pressures and expectations on women are significant. And yet Nancy's affect is not the reason, she should be a featured profile in my championship baby shower game. No. Nancy Lopez is the mother of three daughters. In fact, with the approval of her doctor, Lopez played a tournament 5 months pregnant.

Lopez's experience as a female athlete and a mom is why she was challenged another LPGA great, Annika Sorenstam. Like many female athletes, Sorentstam decided to retire from her sport in order to focus on having a family. She stated that she had achieved all that there was in golf; Lopez offered a countering viewpoint, challenging her claim. "I said there is more to do in golf. You haven't won as a mother. The tour needed her. Annika brought the game to new heights. Her talent raised the quality of play out there. I was so disappointed she decided to quit." As Lopez was sharing her emotion, the program ran footage of Sorenstam playing in The Colonial, a tourney on the men's tour. I had forgotten that she received this prestigious invitation.
Lopez is excited because her granddaughter, pictured here, has taken to golf.
Nancy's words elicited a number of reactions. While some people do not share her disappointment others "get it." Fans stated that female golfers ought to support one another and others recognized her words were justifiable. After all, Lopez had done what she hoped for in Sorenstam. She pursued golf...as a mom. 

Sorenstam's decision and Lopez' challenge raise what is truly one of my favorite questions...What if. What if Sorenstam had continued to play with her children in tow? How might her example inspire other female golfers? What if more moms played golf? Would more children play? and in particular—more girls?

Nancy Lopez should be recognized as an outstanding role model for golf. She has urged women to play the sport she loves by offering responses to the reasons they often say that they cannot. For example, it's no secret that moms are strapped for time; a round of golf takes at least four hours. Lopez said "one of the best things a golfer can do is just practice. Get to the range and take 20 to 30 minutes to swing and hit balls. So much of the game depends on chipping, pitching and putting. All of us should be working on this aspect of our game regularly. No one wants to work on the short game for more than an hour. Any time that you can give to it will pay dividends. As your children get older, moms have more free time. Unfortunately for me, none of my daughters play golf. If they had, I would have made the time to play with them!"
Without a doubt, Feherty is one of my favorite TV shows

Nancy, you are a wonderful spokeswoman for golf and for female athletes. I was moved by your humility and noted your authenticity. I wish I had watched you play golf in your prime and as duly noted, featured you as a formative female athlete who is a mom. No royal we here: I regret the error. Do I ever....

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