"The best part of her game?" says her caddie, Roscoe Jones. "Well, it isn't any particular club. She hits them all well. It must be her mental game. Yes. There she is, all sweet and smiling, kissing her daddy before the round, then it's all business. She's got that ruthlessness. I can see her doing to the ladies what Nicklaus has done to the men."
By now, the Nancy Lopez story is legend. She was the little Mexican girl who would trail behind her daddy "hitting, hitting and hitting" with a sawed-off three-wood on the parched public-links course in Roswell, N. Mex. She won her first tournament at age nine, by 110 strokes, and at 12 won the New Mexico Women's Amateur. She won eight major amateur tournaments and the 1976 national collegiate championship before dropping out of the University of Tulsa to turn pro last year. She finished second in her first three tournaments, including the U.S. Open. In September, Nancy's mother died of complications following an appendectomy, and Lopez withdrew from the tour for a month. But she came back even more determined. "She may be 21," says her caddie, "but there isn't another lady out here with more self-control."
When she does poorly, as she did last week, it is probably for reasons beyond her control. Her "disastrous" 76 was caused by pressures and hassles she never before had to worry about. She had the biggest galleries at Mission Hills, with a heavy Mexican flavor, starring her father Domingo, who would drink a half-dozen Coors, chatter away and pull out old newspaper clippings about Nancy to show strangers. Her 8-year-old nephew Bernie made a big hit with his AUNT NANCY NUMBER 1 T shirt. An endless stream of relatives and friends poured into town, turning Nancy's rented condominium into a boarding house. There were constant interviews with the press. Then, her fianc� Ron Benedetti flew in from Houston after reading in TIME that their marriage had been postponed. "People forgot that I'm human," Nancy said. For once the smile faded.
"I don't know if it's an emotional breakdown or what," she said, "but I don't feel real happy right now. My life is changing and I don't know if I want it to. So many things matter to me—how I look, how people feel about me, what my friends are doing—and now golf is so serious. The other day I told everybody, 'Look, this isn't a party. It's a golf tournament.' Then I felt terrible for being such a crab."
The smile returned soon enough. "I believe I'm gifted," she said. "God gave me this talent and I believe I can do anything."
People like the LPGA's Campbell worry that Lopez might become over-promoted, as the tour's other pretty faces—notably Baugh and Jan Stephenson—have been. But though Lopez is very conscious of her appearance—she has been struggling with a diet to control her weight—she says, "I want to make my money by winning. I'm here for golf, not for sex."