An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: It is a great pleasure to welcome LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Juli Inkster and Solheim Cup captain for the United States. Where do we begin? Let’s start with this week, your memories of this events, what you’re expecting of yourself.
JULI INKSTER: Well, this is probably my favorite tournament of the whole year, just with the history, the success I’ve had here, the golf course, the tradition, the DinahShore, Colgate. I didn’t play before that, but just the history of the players that played before me.
It’s just a special week. My family lives close enough they can drive here and watch me. They’ve watched me win a couple times here.
I’m looking forward to it. I’m not playing as bad as I’m scoring. My putting has been very disappointing, but switching it up this week, see if that helps.
THE MODERATOR: ’84 and ’89, what do those wins mean to you specifically? We’ve had players talk about the importance of this event in their career. What has it meant to you?
JULI INKSTER: ’84 was my rookie year. I remember I birdied the last hole to get in a playoff with Pat Bradley. She was winning everything. To come out on top and win that…
I know for me then it was just the tournament, it was a major, but I didn’t really get the whole tradition, the importance of it until later on in life when you look back and say, Hey, you won two Krafts, two Opens. You’re thinking, You know what, that’s pretty good.
I think you have more appreciation for what you do later on in life.
THE MODERATOR: 31 LPGA Tour wins, tied with Karrie Webb amongst active players for major championships with seven. Can you assess your career right now as you sit here? I know Solheim Cup captain is something on your mind, but talk about the career that has been for you.
JULI INKSTER: For someone that just kind of fell into the game, I can’t believe I’ve accomplished what I’ve accomplished. I can’t believe that I’ve been fortunate enough to do this my whole life.
I love what I do. I’ve been very fortunate to get up and be able to go out and play golf. I have a great job area to play in. So, you know, it’s been a great ride.
I’m still playing a little bit. I’m not going to play as much. I’ll probably play 10 to 12 this year, probably a little less next year.
I still enjoy being out here. I still enjoy being with the girls, giving them crap, making sure they’re on their best behavior.
THE MODERATOR: Did you say Kraft?
JULI INKSTER: Crap, c‑r‑a‑p (laughter).
Keeping them on their toes. Being the Solheim Cup captain now, I can’t believe all the sucking up I’m getting, but it’s been great (laughter).
I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a great ride. To say I won 31 times, seven majors, winning three U.S. Amateurs, it’s been pretty fun.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s start with some questions.
Q. You have cut back your schedule. You talk about maybe even more next year. As Solheim Cup captain do you feel like you need to be out here as much as you can?
JULI INKSTER: I don’t know. I’ve played with these girls forever. I know who they are, what makes them tick. I don’t need to be out here micromanaging them. They do what they do. I don’t need to be out here following them to see how they play the par 3s. I know their games.
I’m going to be out here if they have any questions, stuff like that, but I don’t think I need to be out here following them around.
Q. This golf course, you did win in ’84 as a rookie. You may be the only person to win here the first time they showed up. You talk to people who played in the ’70s, they say it’s a different golf course. How much has the golf course changed from when you showed up to now?
JULI INKSTER: It’s a lot longer. We’re playing it a lot longer. But we’re hitting the ball farther. Kind of goes hand‑in‑hand.
I don’t know. I think it’s the same golf course. Same layout. I used to hit a little more 3‑woods off the tees than I do now. I hit driver pretty much every hole but a couple.
The par 3s are a little longer. The greens are definitely firmer than we used to play them. Every year the rough kind of bounces up and down. This year the rough is as much as it was maybe a couple years ago.
I think it’s the same golf course. You got to drive the ball on the fairway. You got to be pretty accurate with your irons or you’re going to have some tough putts.
Q. You’re one of the few people who has seen Karrie Webb’s evolution from the best player in the game to this great ambassador for the game. Can you speak to the evolution you’ve seen in her as a person and as a player.
JULI INKSTER: Webbie, she’s very, very competitive, works very hard at her game. She has a lot of respect for the LPGA past, meaning she gets how the LPGA was made. She gets what she needs to do to make it a better place to leave. She’s on the board now for a couple terms. She really thinks things through.
She’s the epitome of a Hall of Famer to me. She keeps grinding. She keeps playing well.
This is a typical Webbie statement. A reporter calls her about, You’re making headway at 39, winning. How are you doing it?
She rattles off, Well, Juli Inkster at 39 won two majors, and at 42 she won two majors, ta‑da, ta‑da. If you would have done your homework… All of a sudden the reporter is like…
I wouldn’t have known that if someone was talking about it reversed. But Webbie knows the history of the game, knows a lot about it.
It’s great to see the look in her eyes. I mean, she has that look of calmness and confidence. I’m sure she’s got a few more majors in her, that’s for sure.
Q. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but back problems seem to be in the news this week. How do you play 30 years? Is it the ghost in the golfer’s machine? No rhyme or reason?
JULI INKSTER: I’ve had one injury, an elbow one time, in my whole career. This is just my personal take. They start golf so young that their bodies have not developed and they keep hitting balls, hitting balls, hitting balls, hitting balls. The travel, the play. Something’s got to give.
I didn’t even start till I was 15. I played a lot of different sports. I did a lot of different things. I don’t know if that’s it or if some people are just more susceptible to having injuries.
I really am a big believer in doing different things than just golf. I think your body, it’s a tough wear and tear. If you use different muscles and do different things… That’s just my take.
Q. Was there anything that you did throughout the course of your career to protect against back injury?
JULI INKSTER: No. I mean, I did other things besides sit out there and beat balls. I skied. I bike ride. I play basketball. I did all the things I probably shouldn’t have done, but I did.
I don’t know. I mean, Suzanne, without her here, it’s a big loss because she’s a great competitor. She’s played well here every year. I know this is one of her favorite tournaments, one she would love to win. I just hope it’s nothing serious and she gets back out here.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s relive a little bit of the Solheim Cup announcement, that night for you. I’m sure you’ve had some thoughts since the phone call originally from Mike Whan. Can you take us back to the moment you found out you were captain? Now that it’s all sunk in, is this a big part of what you’re doing day‑to‑day?
JULI INKSTER: Mike Whan called me, can I call him back, I have a favor to ask. Typical Mike Whan. Will you be the Solheim Cup captain? No fanfare. It was either a yes or no question. I said, Yeah. He said, Great. That was in November.
He also said, But you can’t tell anybody. I’m like, All right, that’s going to be easy. But I did. I told my parents and my family and friends. Told them to hush‑hush it.
Then they had the big deal in Phoenix. It was great. I think what was great about it for me is it was a ProAm party. We had a players meeting, ProAm party, then it kind of ran a little later than it was supposed to. All the girls kind of stayed for it. I thought that was great because I’m not so sure at their age, when I was their age, that I would have done that.
It was great to see how excited they were for myself and Pat to be captain and assistant captain, how much they were looking forward to it. That was the biggest thing I took away from it.
THE MODERATOR: What are you going to do as captain? What is the biggest thing you’re going to give to the team?
JULI INKSTER: They know how to play golf. I don’t need to go out there and say, Play well. That’s what it’s all about.
What I really would like to do is get the camaraderie back of enjoying the Solheim Cup, not making it bigger than what it is.
Believe me, I want to win. But at the end of the day, I want them to have fun. I want them to come away with, Hey, that was a great experience. We had a lot of fun. I think a lot of times it’s just a lot of pressure on them. I’d like to take that off them and try to enjoy the moment.
You’re the best 12 American players here. Whether you win or lose, next week you’re still going to be one of the 12 best players. Just go out there, have fun, enjoy your partner. At the end of the day we’ll see how the points add up.
THE MODERATOR: Are you suggesting that the fun has gotten away from the red, white and blue?
JULI INKSTER: It seems like they play tight. I know because I was in Ireland. It just seemed like it was stressful. I didn’t enjoy it. I don’t know why. It was just not fun. It was just too much pressure. We had too much to do. We never really had a lot of downtime to enjoy ourselves together as a team.
I wasn’t there last year, but I heard Meg did a great job. She was a great captain.
The Europeans, basically they just played better. They made more putts. They just got the ball in the hole quicker than we did.
I play better when I’m just relaxed and have fun. If we can just go over there and not really kill the practice rounds. They already know the golf course. Do something different. Have something like a whiffle ball game, a softball game, something different than golf. Just try to make it something that they will enjoy.
Q. At the champions dinner the other night, Charlie Meacham stood up and said it was time we won. Got a pretty big eye roll from Annika. How do you balance trying to have fun with people going around like that?
JULI INKSTER: It’s easy to say, We’re going to go win. That makes no sense to me because you can say, I’m going to win this week, but you know what, you got to go out and do it.
That’s what I’m going to try to get my team to do, is have the mindset that we are great players. Myself, I know you can get a little intimidated just with the crowds, the expectations. You just kind of make it more than what it is.
Basically it’s golf. You hit the ball, you go get it, you hit it again, you go get it. I think sometimes it gets too big and you get out of what you’re really good at, and that’s playing golf.
So, believe me, I’m going over there to win, but I think you can win and have fun. I don’t think you have to be a grinder for the whole week. I think that’s what the Europeans do the best. I think they have fun. They win. You know what, at the end of the day, they’re going to have a great party.
I just think we need to get back to doing what we do, which is play golf, being a team, throwing the expectations out the window, just play golf.
THE MODERATOR: Wonder how the weather will be in Germany for whiffle ball.
JULI INKSTER: Might have to get a heavier ball (laughter).
Q. Have you read Paul Azinger’s book on Valhalla?
JULI INKSTER: Yes.
Q. Do you intend to implement anything like that or talk to him?
JULI INKSTER: I’ve already talked to him. I talked to him a lot about it.
I don’t know. That might not be a bad idea. But I’m going to see how the team kind of shapes up next year and see if my team falls into that area and go from there.
Yeah, it’s a great idea.
Q. Do you have a best memory of DinahShore and what she meant to this event?
JULI INKSTER: Well, the only memories I have of DinahShore, every time she saw me she always came up and gave me a big hug, asked how I was doing. I never really had dinner with her. I played a ProAm with her. She was always very gracious to all the gallery, autographs. She was just a superstar in a normal body. She never thought she was bigger than who she is inside. I just think that was great.
Q. Talk a little bit about the decision to slow down. Why?
JULI INKSTER: Why? Well, I’m going to be doing a little announcing this year. I’m going to try to see if that’s something I’d like to do. I’m kind of really over traveling overseas to play over there. With the Solheim Cup, I just think I’m going to be busy enough.
I’m going to probably play 10 to 12 this year. Who knows next year. But, I mean, that’s the beauty of where I’m at: I can play if I want to play and I don’t have to play if I don’t. That’s what I love about it.
It’s kind of a win‑win for me.
THE MODERATOR: You were talking about pressure. Now you just said where you are in your career. What type of expectations do you put on yourself as you play 10 events?
JULI INKSTER: I don’t really ever put a score on what I want to shoot. I feel like my golf game is good. I just got to get back to making some putts and getting on a little bit of a roll.
I still think I can win. If I do what I’m supposed to do out here, I think I can win.
THE MODERATOR: If everything fell into place, you had one more leap into that pond, can you describe that?
JULI INKSTER: Once again, it’s easy to sit here and say I’d love to do it, but I got to go out and do it.
We’ll see. I just think I have one more win in me.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s find out if it happens. Juli Inkster, thank you very much.
JULI INKSTER: Thanks.
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