by Dave Devine
Rain had washed out the final two rounds of the previous week's Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament in Los Angeles. More inclement weather was predicted for Tucson, where an LPGA event hadn't been staged since 1973.
Lopez had been named LPGA Player of the Year in 1978 and 1979, amassing 17 tournament victories in those two years. But she was not as successful in 1980, and Lopez entered the Tucson event winless in her first five appearances of 1981.
"I think what I really want to do is be ahead at the end of the second round," the 24-year old Lopez told the Tucson Citizen of her tournament strategy.
With temperatures in the 50s and rain falling off and on at the Randolph Park North Golf Course, players teed off on Thursday, March 5, in front of sparse crowds. The golfers were all shooting for the winner's prize of $18,750, out of a total purse of $125,000.
The field for the event was impressive. The top 15 LPGA career money winners were playing, along with nine of the top 10 from 1980.
Despite the tough competition, Lopez quickly took the lead on the cold day (when some of the players feared it could even snow). After sinking 12- and 20-foot putts to save par on the first two holes, Lopez birdied three of the next five. Paring each hole the rest of the way, she finished with a 70--and a one-shot lead--on the 6,303-yard, par-73 course.
If anything, the weather was worse on Friday, only reaching 50 degrees twice during the day. But Lopez's game remained warm. Even though she three-putted from 10 feet for a bogey on an early hole, she ended up shooting a 72 and still held a one shot lead.
The sun finally came out on Saturday, and Lopez's game really heated up. She birdied four holes on the front nine--but her competitors were heating up, too. By the 15th hole, Lopez had only a two-shot lead over Myra Van Hoose.
That par-3 15th hole proved to be critical. Lopez made a 15-foot putt for birdie, while Van Hoose missed a 3-footer and had to settle for par.
Lopez would finish the day with a course-record 68 and took a commanding four-stroke advantage over Van Hoose.
While she was briefly challenged on Sunday, Lopez shot another 68 and ended up winning the tournament by four strokes.
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