Lopez accepts special exemption to 2002 U.S. Open

Tuesday, April 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FAR HILLS, N.J. (AP) _ Nancy Lopez, who announced last month that this will be her last full season on the LPGA Tour, accepted a special exemption to play in the 2002 U.S. Women's Open on Monday.

The Women's Committee of the U.S. Golf Association extended the invitation for Lopez, who has never won an Open, to compete July 4-7 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

It will be the 25th Open for Lopez, 45, who played on a special exemption in 1999 and 2000. Lopez played college golf at the University of Tulsa.

``I am thrilled to have another chance to win the Women's Open, a championship that means so much to me,'' Lopez said.

She was a four-time runner-up (1975, '77, '89, '97) in the Open and is the only player in tournament history to shoot four rounds in the 60s, which she did in 1997 at Pumpkin Ridge. She finished at 9 under par, one stroke behind Alison Nicholas.

Lopez has won 48 titles since she joining the tour in July 1977.

Still considered a rookie in 1978, Lopez won a record five consecutive tournaments and had nine wins for the season, earning LPGA honors as player of the year, rookie of the year and scoring leader.

A four-time player of the year and three-time Vare Trophy winner for lowest scoring average, Lopez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987 at age 30, the youngest ever.

Lopez and her husband, former baseball player Ray Knight, have four children and live in Albany, Ga.