Nancy Lopez wrote another page of golfing history yesterday when she won the $100,000 European Women's Open championship by three strokes for her eighth victory of the year, thereby setting a season's earnings record of $153,097.
The 21-year-old from Roswell, N.M., dubbed "Laughing Eyes" by the British gallery, began the day one stroke in front and overcame frequent thunderstorms on the 6,174-yard par-74 Sunningdale Old Course for a final round of one-under-par 73 to pick up the $15,000 first prize with a 72-hole total of seven-under 289. She passed Judy Rankin's record of $150,734 in single-season earnings.
Mary Dwyer posted 68, the lowest score of the tournament, to charge into a share of second place at 292 with JoAnne Carner and Sally Little. Another shot back at 293 were Barbara Barrow. Jerilyn Britz, Pat Bradley and U.S. Open champion Hollis Stacy.
Lopez's game had turned mediocre since winning a tournament in June, but this week she displayed her old form. "My confidence is right back," she said. "I was really pumped up here.
"I just didn't have any chance to blow up at all, even though I felt a lot of pressure.
"JoAnne (Carner) started a charge and Sally (Little) was playing very well. But I was really hitting the ball long over those last few holes . . ."
Lopez is on course to break the $200,000 earnings barrier and is gunning for Mickey Wright's record of 13 tournament victories in a year.
"I really excited now. I guess I'll think about that 13th when I hit 12," said Lopez, who jetted off to Scotland after her win to play an exhibition match with her "Supermex" compatriot Lee Trevino.
Lopez's putter only once let her down. That was on the short eighth hole where she had taken a firstround triple bogey. She was on the green from the tee, 35 feet from the pin, but took three putts to get down for a bogey 4.
Earlier, she had birdied the third by sinking from 10 feet to go seven under. She fell back another stroke on the par-4 11th when her drive took her into rough to the right of the green, but from then on her golf was flawless.
The 12th, one of Sunningdale's five par-5 holes, was the most important hole for her. She landed in heather, just short and to the right of the green, with her second, but a fine chip got her out to within three feet of the pin and she sank it for her second birdie of the round.
Another good chip two holes later - also a par 5 - gave Lopez an easy putt for another birdie and with both Carner and Dwyer back in the clubhouse four under par, she knew she had only to par the last four holes for the title.
She did that without any strain.
Carner, who started four strokes behind Lopez, eagled the par 5 10th with a drive, a five wood and a putt from nine feet, to tie with Lopez. Although Carner birdied the 409-yard 16th, she collected bogeys on the 14th and 15th and her challenge faded when she had to take three putts from 35 feet on the 18th for another bogey.
Betsy King, like Lopez in her first full year as a professional, was close to Lopez at the beginning of the day, starting with a couple of birdies. But she faltered from then on, took there bogeys going out then double bogeyed the 10th and finished at 294.