The smile is always big and inviting but nothing like this. On Friday morning, just as Jeongeun Lee6 was putting the finishing touches on a record-setting round at the Amundi Evian Championship, another LPGA Tour star, Gaby Lopez, was realizing her lifelong dream by carrying the flag of Mexico ahead of her home country’s delegation of athletes into the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.
“It’s a dream come true for sure,” Lopez told LPGA.com before boarding her flight for the Games. “Being able to carry the flag for my country and seeing how many great athletes have done that in the past, athletes like Roger Federer and so many others, to add my name to that list is just incredible.”
Commentators, including NBC’s Mike Tirico, noted that Lopez was inspired by another great Mexican athlete, Lorena Ochoa, the only Mexican golfer to be No.1 in the world and a player who has been a personal mentor to Lopez and many others.
“I feel that I’m taking a little piece of everyone’s heart in Mexico onto that flag with me,” Lopez said. “At the end of the day, it’s a huge blessing.”
She has known about this opportunity for 18 months. As time passed, the responsibility only grew in her mind.
“I’ve always wanted to (carry the flag of my country in the Olympics),” she said. “Last year when I won the (Diamond Resorts) Tournament of Champions, in 2020, the president of the (Mexic0) Olympic Committee came up to me because, of course, it was supposed to be that summer. He said, ‘Would you do this (carry the flag in the opening ceremonies) for us?’ I said, ‘Of course, even if I have to miss Evian, I would for sure do it.’ So, yes, I’m skipping a major for this huge opportunity. But it is once in a lifetime.”
No one at the Amundi Evian Championship begrudged Lopez’s decision. In fact, the Opening Ceremonies were streamed in the media center at the Evian Resort Course with great anticipation for Lopez’s appearance. She did not disappoint, beaming with pride as she led her nation’s athletes into the official start of the Games.
Olympic golf begins with the men’s competition next Thursday, July 29. The women’s event is the following week, beginning on Wednesday, August 4 at the Kasumingaseki Country Club. Lopez will be joined by Maria Fassi in representing Mexico in the 60-player field that includes four Americans (Nelly and Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson), four players from the Republic of Korea (Jin Young Ko, Sei Young Kim, Hyo Joo Kim and defending gold medalist Inbee Park), and a wealth of LPGA Tour stars, many of whom are competing this week in Evian-les-Bains, France.
“There are plenty of butterflies, to be sure,” Lopez said of the Games and her Olympic experience. “But for me, being able to be in Tokyo for two straight weeks is going to be good. Being able to connect with myself and just be with Gaby is a good thing. I need some time alone. It’s been crazy the last few weeks and that time will be good for me.”