Gaby Lopez, three-time University of Arkansas medalist and two-time First Team All American, put together an impressive amateur résumé during her time in Fayetteville. At the 2015 NCAA Division I Championship, she also finished second as a single player, one of 19 top 10 results in 36 career starts. Lopez returns to Natural State this week as part of the 144-player field at the P&G-presented Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
“It’s great to come home. Arkansas is officially my second home, ”said Lopez, two-time LPGA Tour champion. “This place has given me so many good memories and great experiences. I’ve become a solid player here. The University of Arkansas program has provided so many tools to prepare for professional golf. “
This is exactly why Lopez was drawn to the Razorbacks in the first place. In her three and a half years in Arkansas, Lopez qualified twice for the US Women’s Open and appeared three times in Rogers at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
One of her greatest memories of the event happened in June 2013 with Lopez between her sophomore and sophomore year. She carded laps 79-74 to miss the cut, but it was the opportunity to be in the same group as Razorback and the Rolex # 2 (then) ranked Stacy Lewis.
“This is one of the great blessings the University of Arkansas brings to any college kid playing a professional event at home,” said Lopez. “To play alongside No. 2 in the world and assert oneself on a bigger stage is a unique opportunity that only a few universities can offer.”
Lopez is one of four Razorbacks alumnae at the Pinnacle Country Club, along with Lewis, Alana Uriell and Maria Fassi. Three current members of the Arkansas women’s golf team round out participants in the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, including exceptions from tournament sponsors Brooke Matthews and Cory Lopez and Monday qualifier Kajal Mistry.
Matthews earned a spot in the field by winning the Blessings Collegiate Invitational 2020. She enters the tournament with an NCAA record performance at the Cougar Classic, shooting 25 under par to break the 54-hole mark with six strokes.
“I tell everyone that in those three rounds I played the best golf of my life. It all came together, ”said Matthews, a native of Rogers. “Ridden well, hit my irons well and putted really well to shoot like that. It wasn’t anything I ever dreamed of or had on my radar.
“Now I’m here at Pinnacle [Country Club], it’s a dream come true. Playing last year was an amazing experience and I’m really excited to do it again. With fans I can have the full experience and have a good time. “
This event is a full circle moment for Lopez and a taste of what to expect for Matthews. The experience is one that few college players will get, but one that the University of Arkansas has shaped to make its own as the program continues to produce outstanding talent.
“I am very happy that the program has grown so much since I arrived,” said Lopez. “It’s so fun sharing memories with Cory, Brooke, and all the girls to come, so many of the girls in the program are getting stronger. You can see how much this program means to us and how much this opportunity, this event, has matured for us as golfers and people. “