Five weeks ago Nancy Lopez was the toast of the golfing world. The 21-year-old shooting Star from Roswell, N.M., almost took Andy North sought, the day he won the U.S. Open, by capturing her fifth straight tournament on the LPGA tour and gaining equal space on the sports pages.
The crowds were five times greater at Hershey, Pa., when the Lopez' streak finally was stopped. She was beginning to look like Mark McCormack's hottest young property since Arnold Palmer. Sports Illustrated, in a belated cover story, went so far as to proclaim La Condesa "not merely a superstar, but also the standard."
Women being women and thus being equally capable of being as catty and selfish as the men on the men's tour, there was bound to be a backlash concerning Lopez's highly publicized backswing. Stories slowly started to appear in which a few LPGA veterans thought it was too soon to place Lopez on a pedestal with, say, Mickey Wright.
Judy Rankin, for one, was rankled. Rankin has won 24 turnaments. Yesterday, after her final tuneup for the Women's Open championship the Texan was asked if Lopez should be conceded the $15,000 first prize in this $100,000 event.
"I wouldn't know why," Rankin replied. "Nancy has a great long iron game, but she's no bomber." Instead, Rankin raved about another young woman in the field of 153 professionals and amateurs.
"It's seldom I go overboard," she remarked. "But Beth Daniel has an enormous potential. She ahs a little bit of everything it takes to become an outstanding golfer.
Daniel, a recent graduate of Furman University, gained her second U.S Western Women's title Sunday and is perceived by many observers as having as much talent as Lopez.
Lopez, off her recent form, will have to imporve sharply if she is going to intimidate her opposition over the 6,115 yards of the Country Club of Indianapolis where par is 35-36-71. She tied for 12th in the Lady Keystone at Hershey, was 10th in the Mayflower Classic at Noblesville, Ind., and tied for seventh last weekend in the Borden Classic at Dublin, Ohio.