Dale McNamara remembers reading a story in Golf World Magazine about a precocious 12-year-old winning the New Mexico Women’s Amateur and thinking how wonderful.
Five years later, McNamara was appointed coach of the fledgling University of Tulsa women’s golf team, and remembered to find out what that special talent was up to. In her second year, she flew with former Cedar Ridge CC professional Buddy Phillips to Roswell to make a scholarship offer to Nancy Lopez.
“We hit it off immediately,” recalled the legendary TU coach, who herself is already a member of the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame. “I asked her how she would like to come and be instrumental in the starting of a great program and she was up for the challenge.”
The summer before she came to Tulsa, Lopez was the runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open, causing McNamara to think she might be ready to turn pro. Instead, she hit the TU campus with her million-dollar smile and small yellow sports car that she continually gunned until her teammates nicknamed her “Screech.”
And she came ready to win. In her two years at Tulsa, Lopez won 11-of-19 tournaments, including the AIAW National Championship as a freshman and placing second as a sophomore. The Hurricane, with Nancy Aaronson and Cathy Reynolds also starring, placed second nationally in both events, starting a dynasty that continued for decades.
She took that killer swing and attitude right to the LPGA Tour, winning nine events, including five consecutively, as a rookie. She added eight more wins in 1979, giving her 28 victories over a four-year span between TU and her first two years on Tour. Lopez went on to record 48 LPGA victories, including three majors. Her connections to Tulsa and Oklahoma were always prominently mentioned on broadcasts and in national publications, bringing great notoriety to TU, the city and Oklahoma golf.