Inkster, at 51, on verge of setting age mark by qualifying for Solheim Cup

juli inkster
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Juli Inkster (right) posed with Solheim Cup Captain Rosie Jones (c) and her fellow assistant captain Sherri Steinhauer (l) in June, but she might wind up playing on the team again instead of helping run it.
By
PA Sport

Series: LPGA Tour

When Tom Watson decided he needed some more experience on his 1993 Ryder Cup team, the man he turned to was former captain Ray Floyd.

At 51 years and 20 days, Floyd was the oldest player to represent either America or Europe -- male or female -- and he certainly did not let Watson down. After two wins in partnership with Payne Stewart, he defeated Jose Maria Olazabal on the final green to help his side to a 15-13 victory at The Belfry.

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This week in Oregon, Juli Inkster, 51 years and six weeks old, will try to break Floyd's age record. She tees off Friday in the Safeway Classic, the final qualifying event for the 2012 U.S. Solheim Cup team, ninth on the points list -- and the top 10 earn automatic places.

What adds extra fascination to the situation, though, is that captain Rosie Jones had named the seven-major winner as one of her assistants.

Inkster has ruled herself out of contention as a wild card if she drops out of the 10, but is now ready to play at Killeen Castle in Ireland next month if she qualifies.

"When Rosie called me and asked me to be an assistant, I said 'sure' because I thought I was done with the golf part of it," said Inkster, who is America's all-time leading Solheim Cup points scorer. "But I want Rosie to have the best team out there. I've tried to wrap my head around this, but I know that if I make the team on points I will play."

Other leading Americans had let it be known that they simply would not allow her to stand down.

"I think you need to take your 12 best players," said Paula Creamer, who has partnered Inkster in the last three matches.

Angela Stanford added that, should Inkster decide not to take her place, "I know about nine other girls that will tell her we're not playing" and Kristy McPherson said: "I'm making sure she plays. She may be feisty, but I can take her down!"

Even Europe's Laura Davies reckons it would be a "tragedy" if Inkster declined what would be a ninth appearance.

Davies herself is all set to make a remarkable 12th appearance in the contest, having never missed one since it began in 1990. The 47-year-old is second in the European standings as Captain Alison Nicholas takes the next two weeks to weigh up her options for the four wild cards she has at her disposal.