Nancy Lopez' hotel room is some kind of mess: clothes, clippings, cosmetics and candy Kisses, on account of this week happens to be Hershey, Pa. The PR man, exhausted from suddenly having to front for the eighth wonder of the world, flops on one bed. The guy from the country club, with pictures for Nancy to sign, stands in a clearing in the middle of the floor. The caddie is rounding up shoes and golf clubs and candy and today's swag. The first observation Nancy has about being famous is, "It's funny, but the more money I make, the more presents people give me."
The phone is ringing again. She picks her way through the forest of telegraphed roses and over some utter stranger who has found a seat on the floor. But what are you going to do? The day before, as she was getting dressed, three women reporters came in to watch and get a new angle. Luckily, today Nancy has just lost a tournament by 15 strokes; otherwise, she might be in some demand.
She talks on the phone standing up, there being no place to put anything down, herself included. She is a pack rat, but this is ridiculous. Growing up, the one rule was that she had to keep a neat room. Her father, Domingo, who has a third-grade education and an auto-body shop in Roswell, N. Mex., would not let her work. He would not even permit her to do the dishes. "No, Mama," he would tell Nancy's mother. "These hands are meant for golf." For five years she wore braces he could not afford. "Mama, she got to," Domingo said. "Our Nancy's gonna be a public figure." But at least she had to keep her room neat. Her father brought her up to be a champion, and her mother brought her up to be a lady; together they raised her as royalty, the countess of golf, la condesa, and she was just that in May of 1978 at age 21, and then she blows right by it in June to become the whole sport of women's golf. Even a countess can be expected to keep a neat room, but it is difficult for a person to manage that when her room contains a whole damn sport.
Nancy puts the phone down and sighs. "This is for the chairman," the guy with the pictures says. "Oh, he'll love this, Nancy."
"Think they'll want us back next year?" asks the PR man, Chip Campbell. All of a sudden Campbell is a bear with a gingersnap. A year and a half publicizing the Ladies Professional Golf Association, trying to scare up any stiff with a typewriter, patiently spelling R-a-n-k-i-n and P-o-s-t and other such difficult big names—and, hey, now they just turned down the Today show. Couldn't fit it in. Good Morning, America
is here. The Sunday Times of London is here. A gentleman from Tokyo is downstairs, researching a 30-part series on Nancy Lopez. Sandburg's
didn't take 30 parts. NBC won this week's right to break into its baseball game with Nancy updates. Flash: Nancy is now only nine strokes off the pace. We'll be back in half an hour with an up-to-date report. CBS and ABC bid unsuccessfully for this scoop. It's like the Olympics.
"To tell you the truth," says the country-club guy to Campbell, "a few weeks ago it was only 50-50 we'd want you [the tournament] back at all." A few weeks ago was just before Nancy Lopez became the whole sport. "Now it's, you know, 99.44% sure for '79. It looks like the chocolate people want in, and we'll triple the purse." Campbell makes a funny sound, swallowing another canary; Nancy signs all the photos. "Oh thank you, Nancy, thank you, dear," the man from the country club says. He kisses her and backs out of the room.
As its beneficiary, the Hershey tournament has the Harrisburg Hospital. Last year the tournament drew 7,000 people and cleared $9,000. Two weeks ago 34,000 came out, including several who watched the winner, whoever that was. It looks as if the hospital will bank well over $50,000, so Nancy made them 40 grand, which is not bad. And if she can do that for a hospital, think what she can do for ladies' golf. Think what she can do for Nancy Lopez. "We're looking strictly for the six-figure affiliations," is what one of her management men lets on, sotto voce.
The PR man has got to get things organized. "We have to work out this schedule," he says. The phone rings. "It's my seester," Nancy says, putting on an accent. "Hey, beeg seester, I love you."
The caddie fumbles through her golf bag. Notwithstanding his name, which is Roscoe Jones, and his haircut, which is an Afro, he is a white guy, age 26, out of Medina, Ohio. "They want everything of hers they can get their hands on," he says. Since Nancy has become the sport, Roscoe has collected enough in caddie fees out of her purses to move up among the leaders of the LPGA money winners and, after each round, when Nancy is finished with her press audience, Roscoe himself is ushered to the microphones, there to entertain with deadpan one-liners. They go like this, on the order of Rochester digging into Mister Benny:
NANCY: I didn't like anything about that hole.