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Nancy Ledbetter, Not Lopez, Among Leaders

March 08, 1985|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

A golfer named Nancy usually shows up on the leader board at LPGA tournaments at Mesa Verde Country Club in Costa Mesa. The difference Thursday was that it was Ledbetter, not Lopez, who turned a morning round in the rain into her day in the sun.

"I tried not to think about it too much," said Ledbetter, a 22-year-old rookie from Alabama, "but it's hard not to watch the leader boards because they're so big."

Hey, how could someone walk down Broadway and ignore her name in lights? This isn't the Houston Baptist Invitational (which Ledbetter won in 1982 while playing for the University of Texas).

Ledbetter is one stroke off the lead with a one-under-par 71 after the first round of the $330,000 Uniden Invitational. The other Nancy, who lost a five-way playoff and then won two of the four previous LPGA events at Mesa Verde, was three strokes behind at 73.

For about a half-hour, Ledbetter was the leader in the clubhouse. She wasn't especially awed. After five tournaments, she is the tour's 36th-leading money winner with $5,864. And most of that came from her seventh-place finish in the Elizabeth Arden Classic. Three other times she missed the cut. No big deal.

"It's a lot of fun," she said. "I thought it might be harder. I've really had a good time so far."

The 5-foot 8-inch, 140-pound Ledbetter had a little trouble with the length of the course.

"I'm not small," she said, "but I'm not a long-ball hitter. That's a real disadvantage for me, especially on a course like this. I hit a lot of woods and long irons today.

"But I do hit it pretty straight so I don't get into trouble, and I've talked to the other players (who) say you eventually start hitting it farther just because you're playing more."

She had three birdies, one on a 45-yard chip on the 13th hole. Her two bogeys were caused by three-putting No. 8 from 65 feet and a bad fairway shot on the par-five 11th.

Ledbetter said her amateur career wasn't especially glamorous, but she believes she benefitted from playing in a strong program at Texas and a week's instruction from LPGA Hall of Famer Mickey Wright.

"She helped me with my mental game as much as anything," Ledbetter said, "showing me how to think on the course to plan my game."

She left Birmingham to enroll at Texas because "they have the best facilities," including a course designed by Jack Nicklaus.

The Longhorns, she said, "spend a lot of money on football, but they have a lot of it to spend on golf, too."

Is there room for two Nancys at the top? Ledbetter isn't rushing it. Her immediate ambition is modest.

"I want to be rookie of the year," she said.

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