PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) - Juli Inkster made the cut in her first U.S. Women’s Open when she was an 18-year-old amateur. She finished 10 shots behind Hollis Stacy. JoAnne Carner was a runner-up. That was in 1978, back when Willie McCovey was still playing first base for the San Francisco Giants.
Inkster is playing the Women’s Open for the 35th time this week, and the 53-year-old from the Bay Area said Wednesday it probably will be her last.
“I’m not playing much,” Inkster said. “I think I’m only going to play a couple more this year. And next year I’ll probably just play like six tournaments, too. This is probably my last one.”
A moment of sadness? Not quite.
“Shoot, I’ve played in 35 of these, so that’s pretty impressive,” Inkster said, a two-time Open champion and Hall of Fame member. “I love where I am right now. I look at the young girls out there and I’m like, ‘Wow. I’m so glad I’m not starting.’ So I’ve really enjoyed golf. I’ve really enjoyed the competition. I love playing. I’ve got a lot of new stuff, Solheim stuff, and doing a little TV commentating. I’m still going to be out here and be busy. But I’m definitely not going to play as much.”
Inkster hasn’t won in nearly eight years, and she last made the cut in the Women’s Open in 2009. She qualified this year at No. 69 on the LPGA Tour money list from last season. The top 70 are exempt from qualifying.
She won her first Women’s Open at Old Waverly in 1999 - and then captured the career Grand Slam a few weeks later at the LPGA Championship. But her highlight was at Prairie Dunes, when she closed with a 66 to overtake Annika Sorenstam in 2002 at the height of the Swede’s game.
As for the probably?
Go back to Old Waverly, her first Women’s Open. Her daughters were in the first and fifth grades. Inkster spoken then - that was 15 years ago - about slowing down.
“My goal right now is to play on the Solheim Cup in 2000 that’s in Scotland,” she said after her victory. “After that - I said this two years ago that I was going to cut back - but I just really foresee myself playing 10 to 12 tournaments a year.”
She played at least 18 events for 11 years after that Solheim Cup team. She played on six more teams. One daughter is out of college. Another is at Villanova. Inkster loves to compete. She doesn’t like the daily grind of practice, saying golf today is more of a job.
“I’m just glad I’m drinking with my kids instead of putting diapers on them,” she said.
NO HULL: The USGA said it was changing its criteria for the U.S. Women’s Open next year. Instead of the top 25 from the women’s world ranking being exempt from qualifying, the top 50 will get in.