Juli Inkster no stranger to success in Seattle area as KPMG Women's PGA Championship nears
By Scott Hanson
DALY CITY, Calif. – Before most players on the LPGA Tour were born, Juli Inkster was laying the foundation for her legendary professional career, with the Seattle area front and center.
In 1982, as a senior at San Jose State, she won the Husky Invitational at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, one of her record 17 college victories. The next year she was back, claiming the first of her 31 LPGA Tour victories by winning the Safeco Classic at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent.
So you can understand why Inkster is happy the LPGA Tour is returning to this area for the first time since 1999 when the KPMG Women's PGA Championship is being played at Sahalee from June 9-12.
"I love it up there, and I can't wait to get back," said Inkster, who remains competitive at age 55. "I loved going up there. They have tree-lined, old-school courses like the ones I grew up on.
"I remember (Sahalee) was really, really right and really, really wet. I hear they've taken out a lot of trees, but I can't wait to get back."
Inkster was well known to the golf world even before her college win at Sahalee, having already won two consecutive U.S. Women's Amateurs. Later that summer she became the first player to win three in a row.
In 1983 she was playing in her fifth event as a pro when she returned to the Northwest and was locked in a duel with legend Kathy Whitworth in the final round. Inkster, playing a group ahead of Whitworth, birdied the 17th hole to tie for the lead.
Whitworth had a 4-foot par putt on the 18th to force a playoff but missed.
"Kathy wasn't happy," Inkster said.
There wasn't nearly as much drama in 1988, when Inkster won the Safeco Classic for the second time, winning by three shots. She was one of three players (with Patty Sheehan and Karrie Webb) to win the event more than once during its run from 1982-99.
But Inkster, who grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., and lives in Los Altos, had success just about everywhere she played. Among her 31 wins are seven major titles, including two U.S. Women's Opens. She became a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000.
Inkster's most recent LPGA Tour win came in 2006. She lost in playoffs in 2007 and 2008 when she could have become the oldest winner in tour history. Despite the long victory drought, Inkster certainly is not overmatched against the new generation, some more than 35 years younger than her.
She made the cut in all six of the events she has played in this year, with finishes ranging from 19th to 54th.
"I've actually been playing pretty good," she said. "I always seem to have one bad nine holes out there. My concentration isn't what it used to be. But I enjoy playing, and I enjoy playing with these girls."
It also gives her a chance to keep an eye on players who could be part of the Solheim Cup team. Inkster captained the United States to a win in 2015 and will be the U.S. captain in 2017.
For everything Inkster has done on the course, it's never been just golf for her. She has been married for more than 35 years and has two adult daughters.
"Being a mother, wife and a professional golfer, everybody asks me, 'How do you do it?' " she said. "I think you can do it all. You've just got to kind of set your priorities."
In golf, her priority has been on the majors, and the next one is at Sahalee. She certainly won't be favored, but it would be foolish to count her out at a course and an area where she has had great success.
"It would mean a lot," Inkster said of winning again. "I feel like I'm playing OK, so we'll see."
This article was written by Scott Hanson from Seattle Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.