Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed $150,000 the Legislature had approved for a statue at a golf course in Roswell honoring Lopez, who grew up playing the game in the community and later won 48 LPGA Tour events, including three major championships.
Roswell Mayor Del Jurney said the statue was to be placed at a municipal course that last week was renamed in honor of Lopez, who learned to swing a golf club when she was 8 and won the New Mexico Women's Amateur championship at age 12. Lopez's father, Domingo, the owner of an automotive body shop, encouraged her to play the game.
Jurney referred to Lopez as a "pace setter."
"A lot of the story took place when she was in high school," he said in a telephone interview. "There wasn't a girl's golf team, and Title IX had not been implemented. So there was a real effort for Nancy to earn the right to participate on the boy's golf team."
Her success helped pave the way for more availability and recognition of women's sports at the high school level, the mayor said.
Lopez also helped boost the popularity of the LPGA Tour as a rookie in 1978, when she won nine tournaments. She became a four-time player of the year, and twice was voted Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
The money for the statue was among $4 million for more than 70 projects that Martinez rejected last week in a measure allocating bond proceeds and other funds for $270 million in capital improvements statewide.
Martinez spokesman Greg Blair said Tuesday the governor's vetoes weren't a statement about the merit of any project.
"Nancy Lopez's life story is inspirational. She is a New Mexico icon and someone all New Mexicans can admire," Blair said in a statement. "It simply amounts to whether the state should use severance tax bonds on a statue of someone who is still living, as opposed to on investments in schools, roads, water infrastructure, and health facilities—particularly when the statue can be funded at the local level and is planned to be displayed in a municipal facility."
Jurney said the city will ask the Legislature next year for money to help pay for a statue and will consider seeking private fundraising.
"I certainly understand the governor's hesitation," he said.
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