Nancy Lopez is an attractive, vivacious, likeable young woman, and a remarkably talented golfer in the bargain. She has been to the women's professional golf tour what Billie Jean King was to women's tennis—the individual who, because of her energy and skill, almost singlehandedly brought widespread acceptance to a game previously regarded with indifference or contempt. Lopez jolted and delighted the nation last year when, as a rookie, she won five straight tournaments; she has rolled right along in grand style this year, the leading money-winner again.
All of which is fine and dandy, but none of which qualifies her to write a book. She has done so anyway; I wish she hadn't. It is The Education of a Woman Golfer (Simon and Schuster, $9.95), written in collaboration with Peter Schwed, and it has almost nothing to recommend it except a certain post-adolescent naivetè. Its prose is in the most grating tradition of gee whiz and gosh golly; as an instruction manual it's only marginally useful, because by her own happy admission Lopez is an instinctive golfer; and as the story of her life on and off the tour it is more notable for what it doesn't tell than what it does.
The details of her life are well enough known: growing up in Roswell, N. Mex., the daughter of proud and devoted Mexican-American parents; instruction in the rudiments of golf at the hands of her father; quick, sure progress through the amateur ranks; a spectacular professional debut; marriage early this year to a Pennsylvania television sportscaster.
Lopez goes through the whole story, but she doesn't embroider it much—though at the age of 22 she can't be expected to have much perspective on her life. She provides chatty sketches of her fellow players (they read like program notes), but she carefully skirts such delicate matters as sex on the tour and the physical effects of menstruation.
Her advice to would-be golfers consists mainly of "find your natural swing," which is a good deal easier for someone who was born with one than for someone who wasn't. It isn't that she's being evasive; the naturally gifted athlete is almost always the least successful teacher.
The Education of a Woman Golfer might be pleasant reading for a teen-ager with arrested critical faculties, but most adults will quickly weary of its exclamation points and slumber-party chatter. It takes more than high spirits to write a book.