Juli Inkster Talks U.S. Women's Open June 14, 2010 By Lynn DeBruin

Juli Inkster won the second of her two U.S. Women's Open titles at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. (USGA Museum)
Juli Inkster, a member of the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame, has won 31 LPGA tournaments and seven major championships, including the 1999 and 2002 U.S. Women's Opens. Inkster also claimed three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur titles from 1980-82 and represented the USA in the 1982 Curtis Cup Match. She’ll reach another major milestone on June 24, when she turns 50. Lynn DeBruin recently chatted with Inkster about the U.S. Women’s Open and this year’s venue, Oakmont Country Club:

What makes playing in a U.S. Women’s Open special?

Inkster: It’s just the prestige. Being brought up in the U.S., this is your championship. It’s what you play for. Even though I started late in life playing golf, winning the U.S. [Women’s] Open was my ultimate accomplishment and dream.

If I’ve counted right, this will be No. 30?

Inkster: It could be. Crazy. But you know what? It’s good odds (you’ll win again) when you’ve won only 2 of 30. I’d be sitting on the bench right now if I were playing baseball.

What does it mean to be playing Oakmont, the same course the U.S. Open was played on in 2007?

Inkster: It's great every time we can play a prestigious golf course like Oakmont. It has the history, has the background of being a very established club. We played there in 1992 and did very well there.

Your memories of the ’92 Open at Oakmont?

Inkster: I lost in a playoff [to Patty Sheehan]. I hadn’t won one before and it was the first time I really had a solid chance, so it was heartbreaking.

Can you make up for that tough loss this year?

Inkster: I don’t know. I hope so. All I have to do is finish one ahead of last time.

What makes Oakmont a great championship venue?

Inkster: It really tests all aspects of your game, especially your short game with the greens being so fast and hard. It’s a true championship course.

Does it suit your game?

Inkster: Any course suits your game if you’re playing well. But this is the type of golf course where you have to be pretty precise with the irons. You’ve got to drive well, hit irons well, putt well and you have to have some luck.

Does it take a different mentality to prepare for a U.S. Women’s Open?

Inkster: It gets your adrenaline running. I know coming up on the first tee I get goose bumps. And if you have a chance Sunday to win it, it tests everything about you mentally and physically.

Do you go in with a certain strategy?

Inkster: You figure out a game plan of how you want to play the golf course because you’re going to make bogeys. If you sprinkle some birdies in there, you’ve got a chance – if you manage your game. You figure out a game plan of how you want to play the golf course because you’re going to make bogeys. If you sprinkle some birdies in there, you’ve got a chance – if you manage your game. 

You’ll turn 50 this year. Does that seem real?

Inkster:I don’t know what 50 feels like. I feel good. Fifty is not that old. I feel good.

Does it make you wonder how much longer you’ll keep playing competitively?

Inkster:No. I just take it day by day, year by year.

You recently were named Solheim Cup assistant captain for 2011. Any chance you’ll be a playing assistant?

Inkster: No. I’m perfectly happy being an assistant.

If you weren’t playing, what would you be doing?

Inkster: I hope I don’t have to do anything. But I looked at maybe coaching a high school golf team. Maybe I’d try a little commentating. After you retire, opportunities open up. I’m not really worried about it. But I would like to stay in golf. It’s been a lifelong passion. If that happens, it would be great.

Lynn DeBruin is a Colorado-based freelance writer whose work has appeared on USGA Web sites.