Nancy Lopez was born on January 6, 1957, in Torrance, California. She was raised along with her older sister, in Roswell, New Mexico, by her parents Domingo and Marina Lopez. Of Mexican descent, Lopez grew up in a traditional Catholic household. Her father owned an auto repair business, and her mother tended the house and the children.

Lopez began to play golf with her family in 1964 at the age of eight, using old clubs with shortened shafts. Her natural ability was quickly apparent to her father, who began coaching her. Lopez won her first tournament when she was nine years old, finishing 110 strokes better than her nearest opponent. By the age of eleven Lopez was beating both her parents on the course, and her father became committed to developing his daughter’s game. The family skimped and sacrificed to afford to finance Lopez’s golf. She won the first of her three New Mexico Women’s Amateur Championships when she was just twelve years old, but the pressure of competition was taking its toll. “I was so scared I always threw up,” she admitted to Sports Illustrated. “I carried a trash can with me. My dad told me, ‘If you’re going to play golf, you’ve got to get over being sick.’ I didn’t want to quit so I decided to get over it.” She did and kept winning.

In 1978, her first full season on the LPGA Tour, Lopez won nine tournaments, including at one stretch, five tournaments in a row. She appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, LPGA Rookie of the Year, LPGA Player of the Year and was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. 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. Lopez was married to former Major League All-Star baseball player Ray Knight for 27 years, from 1982 to 2009. They have three daughters

Over the course of her career, Lopez received the Player of the Year Award four times and had 48 victories—three of them in major tournaments—and became the first woman to receive the Frances Ouimet Award for lifelong contributions to golf.

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