Inkster, Juli Simpson

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INKSTER, Juli Simpson

(b. 24 June 1960 in Santa Cruz, California), one of the top players of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and a member of its Hall of Fame.

Inkster was born Juli Simpson, the youngest of four children of Jack Simpson, a fireman, and Carole Simpson. Her childhood home was near the fourteenth hole at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California, and she took up the sport at the age of fifteen. At sixteen she began taking lessons at Pasatiempo from Brian Inkster, from whom she learned her signature swing; they married four years later, on 26 July 1980, and had two daughters.

Inkster attended San Jose State University on a golf scholarship, where she was a collegiate All-American all four years. In 1978, while still in college, she qualified for the U.S. Women's Open as an amateur, and in 1980 she won her first U.S. Amateur title; she repeated the win the following year, becoming only the ninth player to accomplish this feat.

In 1982 Inkster became the first woman since 1934 to win the title in three consecutive years. She was a member of the 1980 and 1982 World Cup teams and the U.S. Curtis Cup team in 1982. She won numerous honors in her early years, including the 1981 California Amateur of the Year and 1982 Bay Area Athlete of the Year titles. Golf Digest named her the 1981 and 1982 number-one-ranked amateur, and the following year the magazine named her Rookie of the Year.

In 1983 Inkster joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour, and in 1984 she won the fifth tournament she entered, the Safeco Classic. The same year she became the first rookie to win two major championships, the Nabisco Dinah Shore and the du Maurier, Ltd. Classic, which she won in a sudden-death playoff with another former Rookie of the Year, Pat Bradley. Inkster posted more victories in 1986, 1987, and 1989, the year she won both the Nabisco Dinah Shore and the Crestar Classic for the second time.

In 1990 Inkster cut back her participation because of the birth of her first daughter, managing only a fifth-place finish in the Plantation Pat Bradley International Tournament. She returned to competition when her daughter was only seven weeks old but had difficulty concentrating, and went twenty-seven months without a victory before winning the 1991 Bay State Classic. Between 1991 and 1994 she won two tournaments and was in the playoffs of two major championships. With the birth of her second daughter in 1994, Inkster played in only sixteen events, and her best finish was a tie for second in the Ping Welch's Championship held in Boston. She posted only second-and fourth-place finishes during 1995 and 1996 and considered retiring from golf, but instead recommitted herself to the game and began working with a new coach, Mike McGetrick. Inkster got a second wind in 1998, when she recorded her seventeenth career LPGA victory in defending her Samsung World Championship title, as well as shooting a career first hole-in-one and tying a career low of sixty-four during the second round of another tournament. Catching fire in 1999, Inkster won five tournaments. With her twenty-second victory, at the Safeway LPGA Championship, she joined Pat Bradley as the second woman to complete the modern career grand slam (then comprising the du Maurier Classic, U.S. Women's Open, Nabisco Dinah Shore Championship, and the McDonald's LPGA Championship), along with the earlier grand slam winners Louise Suggs and Mickey Wright. Inkster had won all four major championships on the LPGA tour, including the U.S. Open and two Professional Golf Association (PGA) championships.

At five feet, seven inches and slim, Inkster is considered diminutive compared to other golfers competing in the LPGA tour. However, her powerful drive averages 255 yards, making her one of the longest hitters in the women's golf game. Inkster manages her game with a consistency in all areas of play, such as greens hit and putts per round. In the past four years she has maintained a stroke average of seventy.

Inkster won the $800,000 Safeway LPGA Golf Championship on 26 September 1999 by six strokes, assuring her entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame as its seventeenth member. She won $120,000 with this victory and celebrated by being showered with champagne by her friends and competitors on the tour. She celebrated her fortieth birthday on the Friday of the tournament. Inkster also was honored in October 1999 by the Women's Sports Foundation as a Sportswoman of the Year.

Considered the most difficult Hall of Fame in all sports to break into, the forty-eight-year-old LPGA Hall of Fame changed its criteria to Inkster's benefit shortly before her induction. Because of its stringent requirements, only seventeen women golfers had entered the LPGA Hall of Fame in nearly half a century. Nothing would compare, however, with the celebratory champagne shower Inkster enjoyed while still an active player. In late 2001 she was the only Hall of Fame golfer still active on the tour.

Inkster continues to blaze a trail in the annals of the LPGA, earning more than $6 million in career wins. She has won back-to-back victories in the McDonalds LPGA Championship, the Long Drugs Championship, and a third career Samsung World Championship title.

"I realized I could be a mom and play golf," she said. "It's a fine balance. I have a lot of support at home. It's not easy, but I am doing what I love to do."

There is no full-length published biography of Inkster at this time. Articles on Inkster include Alan Shipnuck, "Better than Ever: Winning Majors Never Gets Old for Juli Inkster," Sports Illustrated (3 July 2000), and an article in Golfweek (1 July 2000).

Rosemarie S. Cardoso