‘I want to be limitless’: Gaby Lopez hopes to make it a double in Ohio at LPGA’s new Kroger Queen City event

Gaby Lopez had pictured herself inside the top 10 in the world. But after Sunday’s victory at the Dana Open, her mindset changed.

“I want to be limitless,” said Lopez, who moved up this week to No. 37 in the Rolex Rankings. “I want it to be as far as I can go. I want it to be, let me surprise myself.

Mexico’s Lopez, 28, birdied the last three holes on Sunday to shoot 63 in Sylvania, Ohio, and claim her third career LPGA title and her first since 2020.

At the new Kroger Queen City Championship this week in Cincinnati, Lopez will tee off alongside Marina Alex and Alison Lee at 1:14 p.m. ET as part of the new featured groups on ESPN+. Eighteen of the world’s top 30 players will be featured in the new streaming broadcast. This marks the first time featured groups at LPGA events are streamed live on any platform.

Prior to Sunday’s victory, Lopez hadn’t finished inside the top 10 since the season-opening event in January. In March, she suffered a neck injury that forced her to withdraw from several events.

“It was jumping,” said Lopez of what caused the ligament tear. “I’m really extreme. I’m all or nothing, right? So I did this kind of just squat jump and I was going to try to touch the ceiling, and when I did it was a whiplash movement and I just tear my ligament on my neck. Yeah, it wasn’t fun.”

After that, she dealt with tendonitis in her left wrist, noting that she played the U.S. Women’s Open in a lot of pain.

“I just felt like nothing was really clicking for me over the year,” said Lopez. “I was struggling physically, struggling mentally, and that’s where the doubts and fears come from.”

On top of it all, Lopez began to struggle off the tee. She currently ranks 134th in driving accuracy and has focused lately on the tempo of her backswing, trying not to rush it back.

“Yes, I’ve been struggling with my driver,” said the former Arkansas star, “but I feel that now with more consistency on my irons and my wedges, I’ve been able to just transfer that into my driver and know that it really doesn’t have to be so, so long as I think it has to be. As long as it’s straight and you’re impacting the middle of the golf club, you’re going to be just fine.”

Gaby Lopez of Mexico reacts to her birdie on the 18th green during the final round of the Dana Open presented by Marathon at Highland Meadows Golf Club on September 04, 2022 in Sylvania, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Heavy rains kept players off the course for much of the early week at Kenwood Country Club, but Lopez hopes to keep the momentum going, noting that she’ll feed off the energy and excitement of a new event.

She had and her sports psychologist, however, have already talked about starting from zero. The scores from last week don’t carry over.

The time in between victories, she said, has been tough. It’s been dark at times. It has been negative.

“I’ve been not myself outside the golf course because I’ve been impatient,” she said. “I’ve been frustrated. At some points, it just gets in your head: Am I going to be able to win again? Am I going to be able to compete?”

This past weekend, however, Lopez answered those questions when she pulled off clutch shots down the stretch, proving to herself that she’s not only a great player, but a great competitor, too.

“I just deep down believed that the best years of my golf are just getting to the surface,” said Lopez, “and deep down I believe that. I’m not sure when or how far or how long it’s going to take me or how far I’m going to get, but I just deep down believe that that’s what I feel.”