Inkster Regales, Inspires Women’s Mid-Am Competitors September 22, 2018 | St. Louis, Mo. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

On the eve of the championship, Juli Inkster met with competitors and volunteers and conducted a clinic. (USGA/Ron Driscoll)

U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Home

When Juli Inkster’s family moved into a house adjacent to the 14th hole at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif., she and her brothers used the grounds for everything except golf: it became an impromptu baseball or football field, a flashlight-tag arena, or a place to sell lemonade or golf balls to players.

“I have two older brothers, and I played every sport that they did – baseball, football, basketball,” said Inkster. “But when I got a job at Pasatiempo at age 15, I thought, this is probably a sport my brothers wouldn’t be interested in. It can be my own thing.”

Inkster made it her own, all right, carving out a World Golf Hall of Fame career that has brought her 45 worldwide professional victories, including two U.S. Women’s Opens, along with three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur titles (1981-83).

“I fell in love with golf,” Inkster told the competitors at the Players Dinner for the 32nd U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, which began Saturday at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. “There were so many aspects to the game – the driving, the putting, the chipping and sand play. I just loved that competition within yourself to get better.”

When Inkster decided to test her game two years after taking it up, she set a high target. She saw an application for the 1978 U.S. Women’s Open on the club’s bulletin board and rode home on her bicycle to deliver it to her parents.

“My mom said, ‘Sure, why not,’ although she admitted she didn’t know anything about it,” said Inkster. “We drove to Fresno, 2½ hours away, and I ended up shooting 72, the best score of my life, and I qualified. The championship was in Indianapolis, and the club raised some money to help with my expenses.

“When I got to Indianapolis, I didn’t know anything,” said Inkster. “I went out to practice and there were brand new Titleists on the range. I’m like, oh my god, I usually find these in the canyons and sell them back to people. So I would hit a couple, then put one in my bag, hit a couple more, put another one in my bag. Thank goodness there was no 50-pound limit for airline baggage then.”

Inkster shot an opening 80, but she rallied to shoot 72-72-73. From that point on, she said, “The USGA has been my thing. By growing up at Pasatiempo, I learned how to play tough golf courses well. It really helped me with USGA venues, where par is your friend.”

Norwood Hills fits into that mold, and Inkster, who finished second to Laura Davies in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in July at Chicago Golf Club, saluted the effort that each of the 132 competitors made to reach the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.

“I’m all about women and growing the game,” said Inkster, 58, who will captain the USA Team for the third time in the Solheim Cup in 2019. “No matter your age, you have families, you have kids, you have jobs, but you still have a passion for golf. This is what it’s all about. Golf is such an amazing game. Whether you’re 16 or 60, we can all compete together.”

Inkster urged the players to pat themselves on the back for their efforts just to reach the championship, while enjoying the camaraderie and the competition.

“It’s great that the USGA gives these career amateurs a chance to compete,” said Inkster, who also gave a playing lesson to players and club members on Friday afternoon with Jay Delsing, a fellow Fox Sports analyst and a longtime member of Norwood Hills. “A lot of them were really good college players who weren’t able to take it to the next level. This is their chance to take it to the next level.”

Inkster considers her two U.S. Women’s Open wins and her three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur victories – which required a total of 18 straight wins in match play – her most impressive playing achievements.

“It took me a long time to win a Women’s Open,” said Inkster, who lost to Patty Sheehan in a playoff at Oakmont in 1992. “I wasn’t sure I would get another opportunity to win it. To come back and win in 1999 and again in 2002, those are probably my two favorite wins. And match play is really tough, a lot different than medal play. I look back on my Women’s Amateurs and wonder, how did I do it? I’m really proud of doing that.”

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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