Nancy Lopez: CORPORATE LEADERSHIP Inspired by the Game of Golf (Exclusive Series)

"Nancy Lopez: Pride, Passion, Personality," Photo Credit: St. Augustine Record

Nancy Lopez’s exhibit “Pride, Passion, Personality” opened up on January 15th, 2011 at the World Golf Hall of Fame. Photo Credit: St. Augustine Record

This is the 7th article in an exclusive leadership series. The author Andy Reistetter shares his insight on how professional golfers, competition and the game of golf can be utilized inside corporations to dynamically develop corporate leadership and culture.

This is the first LPGA player to be featured in the series and rightly so after the author attended the formal opening of her special exhibit “Pride, Passion & Personality on Saturday, January 15th at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida.

Reistetter has written two books- one on inspirational leadership called “The Approach” and the other on inspiration living called “Love, The Rest of My Life (TROML) & The Pursuit of Eternity.” Both books are available by emailing  

As stated in the very first article in this series- “CORPORATE LEADERSHIP Inspired by The Game of Golf” has three tenets—look to the game of golf and professional tour competitions for inspiring leadership; develop your own unique corporate culture; and implement dynamic systems to insure talent is developed and in the right place at the right time to lead throughout your organization.

Beginning with our mothers we all have been impacted by the strong leadership of women in our lives. In the corporate and political world, women of this and the previous generation have made tremendous contributions, especially in America.

The game of golf is no different. That I know today after attending the formal opening of the Nancy Lopez special exhibit “Pride, Passion & Personality” at the World Golf Hall of Fame.

I went hoping to ask Nancy Lopez one question: When was the exact moment in your life when you realized that your “raison d’être” was something more than winning golf tournaments on the LPGA tour?

After the hour long question-and-answer session conducted by the Hall’s Chief Operating Officer Jack Peter there was no need to ask the question.

Nancy Lopez is a natural leader and likely started to give back to other human beings and the game of golf the day she was born.

Listening to her answer over 20 questions ranging from personal to professional to the future of the LPGA tour one could only think of the word “genuine” to describe this “first lady of golf,” a true humanitarian and ambassador of good will.

Nancy is trying to help the LPGA sell itself to the corporate world in terms of sponsoring golf tournaments.

I think the corporate world should look to Nancy in terms of what real leadership is and what real leadership is needed especially in these trying economic times.

I flashed back to my corporate days when after we became a freshly spun-off company of our own the CEO addressed the management team.

With great unknowns and anxiety permeating the company he transformed the meeting into a question-and-answer session.

Of course nobody had the intestinal fortitude to ask any questions so he turned his chair around, turned the tables on us and started to ask questions to people in the audience.

He asked us the exact questions that were on our minds and expected real and honest responses.

I knew that day he was a natural leader and that our new company would be fine.

That same feeling occurred to me this afternoon with Nancy Lopez up on the stage in the founding partner Shell’s Hall among the bronze portraits of the 130 members of the most prestigious award in all of golf.

This lady was wise in the ways of the world from a very young age.

When asked what was the “tipping point” in terms of deciding to become a professional golfer she spoke about the experience of competing as an amateur at age 15 in the U.S. Women’s Open.

What she recalls is thinking about whether or not the professional lady golfers were truly happy.

Yes, coming from a humble beginning (only in terms of economics) Lopez was impressed by the nice clothes, new shoes and free golf balls but her assessment was to be against a higher standard not necessarily an obvious or visible one.

A natural leader sets high standards with the right basis and realizes that when helping others to succeed you are really helping yourself to succeed.

The question is not how to get a bigger piece of a shrinking pie… the question is how do we make the pie bigger?

Lopez recalled winning Pee Wee golf championships by 100 strokes yet with empathy she would fluff up the grass and place her competitors’ balls on top to improve their lies and their chances.

She recalls in her younger years making 15s on a difficult par-5 and determinedly telling her father “I know I can make a 10.”

Most every champion and natural leader comes from rather ordinary places. It is their spirit and perspective of life that enables their talent to emerge within themselves and later on impacting others.

When talking about the mechanics of putting she spoke of consistent ball speed off the face of the putter to be the key to learning how to adeptly judge the amount of break in a putt.

Though on second thought, the simplicity within her competitive spirit is inspiring.

“There are only two choices with a putt- you either make it or you miss it. Why not choose to make it?”

The reality is that this Hall of Famer chose to live life her way, which may be the secret for all of us- follow a process for the rest of your life, not copy-cat someone else.

Choose to make your life truly unique and personally fulfilling.

Lopez said Lee Trevino gave her the most valuable golf tip, which really turned out to be a life tip.

While Lopez was still a young amateur with an “unorthodox” swing, the legendary Lee Trevino came to Roswell, New Mexico to give a golf clinic.

After seeing the young kid swing, the Merry Mex told her “if it stops working then change it, if it doesn’t keep swinging (that way).”

There are many unorthodox swingers in the Hall of Fame including Lee Trevino and Nancy Lopez. My bet is that you will see some more, namely Jim Furyk and John Daly in there one day as well.

Lopez was self taught with her only instructor or swing coach, in modern terms, being her father.

His advice was simple.

“When I was 7, my father put a club in my hand and said, ‘Put the ball in the hole.'”

She practiced and figured it out on her own.

Back then the players were true “shot-makers,” versus today “a lot of clubs hit the shot for the pros.” There was no lob wedge back then so one needed to improvise with an open faced wedge.

Natural leaders are honest and forthright even in personal and sensitive areas.

The only thing that “Wonder Women Nancy” could not do was win a U.S. Women’s Open. She finished second four times- twice before her amazing rookie year.

Who could forget the last time in 1997 when she became the first golfer to score in the 60s for all four rounds, yet she still lost to Alison Nicholas on the final hole at Oregon’s Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

Today, Nancy revealed the real reason why she never won a U.S. Women’s Open championship.

It was a wardrobe malfunction- a faulty zipper.

In 1977, playing in her first professional event, Lopez was competing with Hollis Stacy down the stretch at Hazeltine National GC.

She busted her plastic zipper in her pants so that it would not stay up.

She could not bend down to read the putts. There was no way she was going to show her underwear to a national television audience or any audience for that matter.

Natural leaders know when to be themselves. Humor reduces tension, puts people at ease so that the real issues can be put on the table and resolved.

Lopez has long gotten over any competitive disappointment in her life and she never forgot her upbringing.

In the midst of her sensational rookie 5-win streak Lopez knew Lopez: “I’ve always wanted to play well without it going to my head. I have seen other athletes get good and change. Because of my mother and father I do not want to change. They never put themselves above anyone else.”

Or forgotten her life experiences- one which occurred at an early age when her father took her to see her golfing hero at the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open at the famed Riviera CC.

She stood in line like the couple of kids before her patiently waiting for the golfer to come out and sign autographs.

He came out and when the first -in-line kid asked politely for an autograph he abruptly responded “No, I don’t have time for this,” and walked away.

“He made me feel horrible and he wasn’t even talking to me.”

A classy lady, she is unwilling to specify the name of the golfer.

While admittedly a professional golfer cannot literally sign every autograph, Lopez is the Arnold Palmer of the ladies tour for doing it thoroughly and with readability.

Though like all natural leaders there is a sense to her disciple in the most trying of times.

Play poorly, sign more autographs as it will help your game.

Her perspective is that her fans have done more for her throughout her career than she has done for them.

They are always cheering even if she is not winning or playing well.

She counsels today’s golfers that if it is a bad day “do not take it out on your fans.”

Sign those autographs because after signing them and receiving so many positives, so many pats on the back, so many gestures to keep going that it will change your attitude improving the effectiveness of your post-round practice session.

That’s why Lopez played in her favorite place last year at the LPGA Championship presented by Wegmans at Locust Hill in Rochester, New York.

You give back yet receive more.

This afternoon started with a “Welcome, Nancy Lopez” and then a standing ovation that made my skin tingle.

After the show was over, the stage being torn down, and the chairs removed there was Nancy Lopez with her last admiring fan taking that last picture and signing that last autograph.

Applause permeated the special Nancy Lopez day at the Hall of Fame and ended with some moisture in the eyes knowing the spirit of the game is alive and well.

A natural leader.

Corporate America, come Monday morning, you should be calling Nancy Lopez to capture a terrific and money-making leadership style and sponsoring an LPGA tournament!


PLEASE NOTE 1: The first six articles in the series:

The first article (published 1/4/10) introduces and explains the three tenets of “CORPORATE LEADERSHIP Inspired by the Game of Golf.”

The second article (published 2/22/10) highlights the accomplishments of Tiger Woods on the golf course and how financial results are the heart beat of any organization whether for profit or for charity.

The third article (published 3/7/10) highlights the attitudes of PGA TOUR players Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els, and Camilo Villegas and defines the objective of “CORPORATE LEADERSHIP Inspired by the Game of Golf” as sort of a “First Tee for Adults at Work.”

The fourth article (published 3/15/10) showcases Ernie Els and his WGC win at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral while comparing key elements of a successful player and a leader in a dynamic corporate setting.

The fifth article (published 4/19/10) showcases Jim Furyk after his second win of the year at the Heritage while challenging the reader to “see beyond what seems to be” when it comes to leadership traits.

The sixth article (published 5/19/10) showcases Byron Nelson who is a legend in the game of golf. It speaks to the power of a natural leader who like Nelson attracts followers whether or not in a position with organizational authority. The concepts of upward coaching and inversion are introduced and explained.

PLEASE NOTE 2: For clarification purposes this series of informative articles is NOT officially licensed with or being promoted by the PGA TOUR. “CORPORATE LEADERSHIP Inspired by The Game of Golf” is just that—an inspired type of leadership and corporate culture based on the game of golf and exemplified by golfers competing in professional golf competitions.

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer that spends his time on all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.

Reistetter resides in Pont Vedra Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.