The Villages - A new home for golf great Nancy Lopez
(from The Villages LIFESTYLE magazine, fall 2003, page 30)
"Erinn, this is one of your holes right here," the Hall of Fame golfer said, calling out to one of her three daughters as she pointed to the lush green fairway that sat easily within the reach of one of her pitching wedge shots.
Nancy Lopez was viewing a scene of both tranquility and a piece of what will become her office. The greenery, coupled with a sea of oak trees in the distance and retention pond water that glistened under the Florida sun, is Lopez's future back yard.
Lopez and her husband, Ray Knight, former Major League Baseball player turned coach, are in the process of having a home built in The Villages, not far from Nancy Lopez Legacy Golf and Country Club. Three golf courses are named after Ashley, Erinn, and Torri, the couple's three daughters.
Building a home in The Villages may be the ultimate endorsement from Lopez, who has agreed to become the community's spokeswoman. For Lopez and The Villages, it's been a love affair and mutual affection that has grown rapidly and dramatically from the time of her first visits here.
"We had some shootouts and other outings. I think one year Dottie Pepper, Julie (Inkster), and I played here," Lopez recalled. "I wasn't really on board with The Villages at the time, but I came here and played. And I thought what was so neat was that people that were here really kind of grew up with me."
Lopez said taking up residency here would put her among her friends and supporters.
"We're still kind of hooked up, there's a connection there between them and myself," Lopez said of her faithful fan following.
And The Villages lifestyle and amenities are second to none for her.
"It's really a feel-good place for me. When I came here it was always so relaxing, the people were so kind. I just loved it from the very beginning," she said. "It's class, it's comfort. You can just kick back and relax - it's everything I like in a place that I want to spend time in."
In August, the latest visit brought the family to the site where their home would be built, which backs up to the Erinn Glenn course. For Lopez, the view has changed dramatically.
"I came out here quite a bit. Of course when we first started, it was all dirt," Lopez said, fanning her hand across the view of the course.
Lopez is looking to return to competitive golf and when she's out on the course, she'll be wearing The Villages visor. All eyes will be searching for that visor at the Nancy Lopez Legacy Golf and Country Club this month when the four-time LPGA Player of the Year hosts her 23rd Annual Nancy Lopez/AIM charity golf tournament. The event benefits disabled individuals involved with Adventures in Movement. Previously, the tournament, laden with celebrities, has been in Dayton, Ohio, but Lopez felt moving it to The Villages "could be something really special.
Lopez's ongoing relationship with The Villages is something really special, too.