A three-time medalist for the University of Arkansas and two-time First-Team All American, Gaby Lopez put together an impressive amateur resumé during her time in Fayetteville. She also finished runner-up as an individual at the 2015 NCAA Division I Championship, one of 19 top-10 results in 36 career starts. Lopez returns to the Natural State this week as part of the 144-player field at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G.
“It’s awesome to come back home. Arkansas is officially my second home,” said Lopez, a two-time LPGA Tour champion. “This place has given me so many good memories, great experiences. I grew into a solid player here. The University of Arkansas program provided so many tools to be prepared for pro golf.”
That is exactly why Lopez was drawn to the Razorbacks in the first place. In her three and a half years at Arkansas, Lopez qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open twice and competed down the road in Rogers at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on three occasions.
One of her greatest recollections of the event happened in June 2013 with Lopez between her freshman and sophomore year. She carded rounds of 79-74 to miss the cut, but it was the opportunity to be in the same grouping as fellow Razorback and the Rolex Rankings No. 2 (at the time) Stacy Lewis.
“This is one of the huge blessings that the University of Arkansas offers to every college kid is playing a professional event at home,” Lopez said. “To play alongside the No. 2 in the world and manage yourself on a bigger stage, that’s such a unique opportunity that very few universities can offer.”
Lopez is one of four Razorbacks alumnae at Pinnacle Country Club, joined by Lewis, Alana Uriell and Maria Fassi. Three current members of the Arkansas women’s golf team round out the competitors in the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship including tournament sponsor exemptions Brooke Matthews and Cory Lopez, as well as Monday qualifier Kajal Mistry.
Matthews earned a spot in the field by winning the 2020 Blessings Collegiate Invitational. She enters the tournament coming off a NCAA record-setting performance at the Cougar Classic, shooting 25-under par to shatter the 54-hole scoring mark by six strokes.
“I tell everyone that I played the best golf of my life those three rounds. Everything came together,” said Matthews, a Rogers native. “Drove it well, hit my irons well and putted really well to shoot like that. It was nothing I ever dreamed of or had on my radar.
“Now being here at Pinnacle [Country Club], it’s a dream come true. Playing last year was an amazing experience and I’m just so excited to do it again. With fans, I can kind of get the full experience and have a good time.”
This event is a full-circle moment for Lopez, and a taste of what’s to come for Matthews. The experience is one few college players will receive, but one the University of Arkansas has molded to make their own as the program continues to produce outstanding talent.
“I'm very lucky that the program has grown so much since I got there,” Lopez said. “It's so fun to share memories with Cory, Brooke and all the girls coming up, so many girls from the program just becoming stronger and stronger. You see how much this program means to us and how much this opportunity, this event, has made us mature as a golfer and person.”