Nothing would have been more popular with Toledo-area golf fans than for the LPGA's most popular player to have won a Jamie Farr Classic championship.
Nancy Lopez gave it her best shot on a number of occasions, but it never happened.
"Somebody just always seemed to play a little better than I did," she said. "I had plenty of chances. I always seemed to play well, which is probably because I always enjoyed myself so much in Toledo."
Lopez finished as runner-up in the Farr Classic each of the first four times she played in the event. She also had a third-place finish and ranks 11th on the all-time Farr earnings list with nearly $140,000.
Lopez has played in 13 Farr Classics, and she made sure it was included on her 2002 "farewell tour" after announcing she was retiring from regular participation on the LPGA Tour.
She has played sporadically since - three tournaments in 2003, four so far in '04 - and said she regrets she isn't able to take part in the Farr's 20th birthday party this week at Highland Meadows.
"I really wanted to be there and play, but it just didn't fall right on the calendar," said Lopez, 47. "My youngest daughter [Torri] is going into the seventh grade and our middle girl, Erinn, is starting at Auburn University, where Ashley, our oldest, will be a junior. With all their activities and with school starting, I just couldn't make it.
"I haven't been able to get my golf game where I want it either. A couple of my kids have gotten to know our orthopedic surgeon pretty well and were on crutches and in casts early in the year. Ray [Knight, her husband] was ill for a while and needed surgery. So it turned out to be my year to take care of my family instead of taking care of Nancy. So my game isn't very good and I'm so out of shape it's unbelievable.
"So, I'm sorry I'm missing the Farr. Hopefully, I can make it next year."
From Lopez, that isn't just lip service.
"Toledo is like a hometown for me," she said. "It's such a comfortable place. Jamie Farr and Judd Silverman run a tremendous tournament and we made so many friends among sponsors and fans. They always allowed us to stay in one of the Dana [Corporation] guest houses, which is a wonderful perk when you stay in so many hotels with your family in tow. Torri always called it our big white house. She loves to go to Toledo and visit with her friends. Believe me, it's not an effort to play in that tournament. Like I said, it's sort of like home."
Lopez finished two shots behind Lauri Peterson (now Merten) in the inaugural Farr in 1984, then saw a four-shot lead over Penny Hammel dissolve into a one-stroke loss a year later. Hammel again got the best of Lopez in 1989, when Nancy was part of a three-way tie for second.
It was her three-shot loss to Laura Davies in 1988, though, that stood out to Lopez.
"That's the one I remember most," she said. "I played with her in the final group and it was like playing against Greg Norman. You know, I hit it pretty far back then. But she'd just blow it past me. Ray was walking outside the ropes and I remember him pacing it off, then mouthing to me, '40 yards' or whatever it was she out-drove me by. She basically beat me with her strength."
Lopez, an LPGA Hall-of-Famer with 48 career tour victories, posted a third-place finish in 1997, but could not lament coming close. That's the year Kelly Robbins set an LPGA record with a 19-under 265 total to win by eight strokes.
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