“I'm really excited to continue this journey doing what I love.”
Those words from Gaby Lopez perfectly encapsulate the cheerful spirit that always resonates from the two-time LPGA Tour winner. The 28-year-old has learned a lot from her mentor, fellow Mexican superstar Lorena Ochoa, who is known as much for her beaming smile and giving nature as she is for her 27 Tour victories and more than three years as World No. 1.
Lopez took a detour from her walk to her Tuesday press conference to speak with a group of greenskeepers, many of Hispanic descent, gathered on the 18th green at Lake Nona for a group picture. She follows well-trod footsteps – Ochoa often connected with the grounds and clubhouse staff, making sure these crucial staffers knew that they were appreciated.
“I don't think they have the appreciation enough, and I think they deserve way more than when we do,” said Lopez. “I feel that if all players just connect to them and being able to tell them, ‘Hey, thank you so much for waking up so early and going to bed so late.’ They're a very, very special part of this golf tournament and anywhere we go.”
Lopez’s proud Mexican heritage shows in the red and green she dons every tournament Sunday, an outfit she wore for every shivering second of her 2019 TOC trophy ceremony. Lopez needed seven playoff holes to beat Nasa Hataoka, returning to a frigid course on Monday morning to capture her second LPGA Tour victory. It was a truly special moment that took Lopez several months to fully put into context.
“Being the champion of champions, it's a great feeling. It's good validation for the hard work that we put in, my team and I,” she said. “I'm ready to keep on going to come back to this tournament because I think it's one of the most special ones that we have on tour.”