You’d think Nancy Lopez would have been smiling throughout Thursday’s first round of the LPGA Championship at Mason, Ohio, since she ended up with a seven-under-par 65 and a three-stroke lead.
But Lopez broke down and cried toward the end of the round--and they weren’t tears of joy. Lopez cried because she was assessed a two-stroke penalty for slow play on the eighth hole, which was her 17th.
Lopez said tournament official Kerry Haigh told her she had taken 83 seconds to select the club for her tee shot on the 180-yard, par-3 hole. The maximum amount of time permitted is 60 seconds.
Without the penalty, Lopez would have had a 63 and would have tied the tournament record for a single round, set by Patty Sheehan last year.
“I couldn’t believe I had taken 83 seconds,” Lopez said. “I was upset. I was crying like a baby going to the ninth tee.”
Lopez said it was the first time she had been assessed a two-stroke slow-play penalty in her eight-year pro career. However, she said she had been fined $200 once for a similar infraction in a Hershey, Pa., tournament.
Suzanne Jackson, the first-year LPGA tournament director, said Lopez’s group was running 25 seconds behind the previous threesome. However, the other two players in her threesome, Chris Johnson and Janet Coles, were not penalized.
The 28-year-old Lopez, who once owned a condominium alongside the 18th tee, opened with three birdies and an eagle in her first five holes and matched the nine-hole record of five-under 31 over the Nicklaus Sports Center’s 6,240-yard Grizzly course just north of Cincinnati.
“I always feel confident here,” Lopez said. “I know the course and I know the people.”
Lopez, the wife of New York Met infielder Ray Knight, built her lead in the afternoon over Pat Bradley, Cathy Morse and Alice Ritzman, all of whom shot four-under 68s in the morning before the wind picked up, and Cathy Reynolds-Derouaux, who had a 68 in the afternoon.
Lopez, who won the 1978 LPGA Championship, started on the 10th hole and birdied the 10th, 12th and 13th before knocking in an eagle-3 putt on the 465-yard 14th hole.
Her lead increased to four shots with birdies at the first, second and seventh holes on the muggy, overcast day in this second of the four annual major tournaments in women’s golf.
After her penalty, Lopez scored her seventh birdie of the round at the ninth hole, which was shortened and converted to a par-4 this year.
At Bethesda, Md., two-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin shot a six-under-par 66 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the $500,000 Kemper Open at Congressional Country Club.
Irwin, winner of the Memorial at Muirfield, Ohio, on Sunday, shot a 35 on his first nine but, using his words “turned it on” after making a bogey to fire a 31 on the back nine.
Irwin began the first round on the 10th hole of the 7,173-yard, par 72 Congressional course, considered one of the toughest on the tour. “The bogey on the 18th woke me up,” he said, referring to the 465-yard, par 4, which was his ninth hole.