City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee voted Monday to recommend that the Council rename the Spring River Golf Course to include recognition of acclaimed golfer Nancy Lopez.
Raised in Roswell, Lopez learned how to golf from her father, Domingo “Sunday” Lopez, at the course. At age 12, Nancy won the New Mexico Women’s Amateur title, and continued to amass numerous awards and accomplishments, despite racial and gender barriers. In 1987, the Ladies Professional Golf Association inducted Lopez into its Hall of Fame.
Before the committee’s vote, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to recommend a name change after taking comments from the public.
Members of the community, many in support of the Lopez family and the name change, crowded a meeting room in the Parks and Recreation Office. The commission also looked over a weighty stack of letters from those supporting the name change.
In December, Diane Taylor sent a letter to Mayor Del Jurney, asking the golf course be renamed in honor of Lopez. As a member of the Roswell Independent School District’s school board, Taylor also supported the renaming of Flora Vista Elementary to honor Lopez.
Taylor said Lopez is “the Tiger Woods of ladies’ golf,” who came from a hard-working family and overcame obstacles, including a court case that eventually allowed her to play golf at Goddard High School on the boys’ team.
“Roswell has a wealth of history and role models,” Taylor said. “Nancy Lopez is exactly that, a role model. She is pioneer in women’s golf; she is one of Roswell’s shining stars, an inspiration to the community and she represents Roswell worldwide.
“I think it would be a great honor to rename the course for her; it would be an inspiration for other kids to follow in Nancy Lopez’s footsteps. … It would be a cardinal sin to turn her down and lose this opportunity.”
Taylor brought with her a scrapbook made long ago by young girls of the former Roswell Girls’ Club, who proclaimed themselves members of “Nancy’s Navy.” The book, bound with yarn, features photos and news clippings of Nancy’s young career.
Others in the audience spoke of Lopez’s efforts to teach young people golf through the First Tee program and her contributions to Nancy Lopez Elementary. Throughout it all, they said Lopez remains humble.
“Nancy does not ask for any of this,” said longtime friend Suzie Waldrip. Though Lopez is often criticized for not returning to the city, Waldrip said it’s not because she doesn’t want to, it’s simply the matter of a busy schedule.
Despite overwhelming support, the proposal does have detractors. Randall Kennedy opposed the name change because while Lopez presents a good image, he questioned what significance she contributed to the community and said a name change would cost money.
However, Taylor and Councilor Elena Velasquez said it would not.
Kennedy also objected to the name of the Spring River being taken away because of its cultural and historical significance. Eventually, the commission and the committee decided to recommend a name change that retained the Spring River aspect, but also incorporated Lopez.
City Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting 5 p.m. Thursday at the course.