(Editor's note: This is a first-person account from LPGA Hall of Fame member Nancy Lopez, winner of the 1981 Colgate-Dinah Shore, before the event was established as a major.)
I always wanted to write a letter to Dinah Shore.
Just to say thank you, for what she meant to the LPGA and to me personally.
But darn it, I never did. When she passed away in 1994, I thought, ‘Gosh. I didn’t write that letter.’
Watching this week’s Chevron Championship, I’m emotional. It’s the final year that it will be played at Mission Hills. All week long, I’ve been thinking back to the years when I played in the tournament and Dinah hosted. Gosh, she made it feel so big. So many of her Hollywood friends came to play in the pro-am each year. She brought the LPGA to another level.
Colgate sponsored the tournament early on, as well as several others held overseas. David Foster, their president, did so much for women’s golf. He opened a lot of doors for us, especially for me. When I was in college, I won the Colgate-Palmolive scholarship, which paid for half of my tuition. Financially, that was huge for my family. Colgate also sponsored Dinah’s TV show on NBC. I remember watching it with my parents as a kid. Whenever it came on, they would tell me to get up and change the channel so we could watch. Boy, they loved Dinah. She was such a neat lady. Always smiling. Dressed perfectly. So graceful. She was a movie star to me. Maybe in the back of my mind, I always wanted to be like that.
I can still picture the first time I met Dinah. It was in the locker room at Mission Hills. I walked up to her and said, “Hi, I’m Nancy.” I laugh about it now because I might have been a little too eager to introduce myself.
But it was exciting for the LPGA to be associated with her. It was like, ‘Hey, we’ve got Dinah Shore. She’s a star and she’s hosting an LPGA tournament.’
Her friend Bob Hope turned up to play in the pro-am a few times. One year, I remember he invited a few of the players to his home on top of the mountain overlooking the Coachella Valley. Oh my gosh. His house. Google it. What a view. Inside, he set up a display of life-size photos of us on stands. That was neat.
When I won at Mission Hills in 1981, the tournament hadn’t yet started the tradition of the winner jumping into the lake by the 18th green. But once they did, I remember walking over that bridge on the 18th so many times and saying, ‘Gosh, I want to win this tournament again to jump in that lake.’ I never did. But it would have been so much fun. I remember asking Dinah if she would jump in with me. She was all in. “Sure, let’s go,” she said.
That was Dinah. Her character was just awesome. She had so much class. I just really loved her. She added a lot to the LPGA by being host of that single tournament. The golf world, even the sports world, began to take notice of us in a big way.
All these memories. They’ve come flooding back to me. I wish I was there this week for the final sendoff before the tournament moves to Texas. But I’ll be watching.
As for my friend Dinah, I still wish I could go back and write that letter to her. But deep down, I want to believe she knew how we all felt about her.
She was the LPGA’s shining star.