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lpga season opener

This early contender at the LPGA season opener had an awfully busy offseason

January 18, 2024

Julio Aguilar

Gaby Lopez's globetrotting offseason included nearly everything but golf. That finally concluded Thursday at the LPGA's Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions with a first-round 67.

Over the last month, Lopez married Santiago Carranza in Mexico. They then embarked on a three-week honeymoon that took the newlyweds to Africa, Spain, Egypt and back home to Mexico City to prepare for the season. Now, starting the year at Lake Nona in Orlando, Lopez sits two off the lead.

"I think sometimes when you get those spiderwebs out of your head from past seasons, we get to play so much golf, and it's so many shots, routines, so much intensity, pressure, tension, that I think the time off, it's really important," Lopez said.

The three-continent journey began a little more than a month ago, as Lopez held the 500-person wedding Dec. 16 in Mexico City. After tying the knot, she and Carranza opened their honeymoon by going to Africa, where Lopez saw a safari for the first time.

"Safari is just a different planet," Lopez said. "Just see the behavior of the animals in the wild, the pure behaviors. I think that was spectacular."

They visited Spain to enjoy wine and jamon (Spanish ham) and celebrated the new year outside the ancient Egyptian pyramids. Their dream trip ended in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where Lopez touched a club for the first time to begin preparing for the season.

Lopez's offseason preparation approach changed from last year thanks to rekindling a long-term relationship with former coach Horacio Morales. She went from a feel-oriented swing to a more technical one early last year, as she changed coaches following 2022. Lopez struggled early as she tried to make the changes and she missed four out of seven cuts following the early Asia swing.

Lopez pored through her scoring data halfway through the year and recognized she was hitting fewer greens in regulation. The three-time LPGA winner felt exhausted after scrambling her way through rounds. With going back to Morales, Lopez returned to her more feel-oriented ways and posted three top-10s—including a T-3 at the Evian Championship—over her final 12 starts.

"We been having a relationship for so long," Lopez said. "Sometimes that gap that we spent apart, it was healthy. We reconnected in a really stronger way."

After a fulfilling trip of a lifetime, the 2020 Tournament of Champions winner returned to a familiar place atop the leaderboard at Lake Nona, where she has four top 10s in five starts.

"Sometimes when you come with low expectations, you kind of relax a little bit, and that's always, for me, the start of the year kind of comes to that," Lopez said.