U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Inkster Tips Cap to Her Women's Am Hat Trick
August 11, 2015 | Portland, Ore.
By Lisa D. Mickey
Thirty-five years have passed since Juli Inkster won the first of three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships, the second of which came in 1981 at Waverly Country Club in Portland, about nine miles east of this week’s Women’s Amateur at Portland Golf Club.
With the 115th U.S. Women’s Amateur and the LPGA Tour’s Cambia Portland Classic both taking place this week in the Rose City, it’s fitting that the Oregon Historical Society invited Inkster to participate in its “A Celebration of Golf In Oregon” program.
“This is the epicenter of the women’s golf world this week,” said Cambia CEO Mark Ganz, who introduced a guest panel that included Inkster; Oregon Golf Association CEO Barb Trammell; USGA Senior Managing Director of Rules, Competitions and Equipment Standards John Bodenhamer; and LPGA player Austin Ernst, the 2014 Portland Classic winner and a semifinalist in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Inkster won the first of her three consecutive Women’s Amateur titles in 1980 with a 2-up victory over Patti Rizzo at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. She followed with a 1-up win over Lindy Goggin in 1981 and concluded the run with a 4-and-3 win over Cathy Hanlon in 1982 at The Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs, Colo.
A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Inkster became the first player to win three consecutive Women’s Amateur titles since Virginia Van Wie (1932-1934). Interestingly enough, Tiger Woods completed both his runs of three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur (1991-1993) and U.S. Amateur (1994-1996) titles in the Greater Portland area; the Junior Amateur at Waverly Country Club and the Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
“At the time, I didn’t really understand what it meant, but looking back on it, it’s probably my best accomplishment in golf,” said Inkster, who owns seven major championships, including a pair of U.S. Women’s Opens (1999 and 2002). “To win the Women’s Am three straight years is really hard to do. It was a great benchmark in my career.”
And in her typical candor, Inkster added that she particularly enjoyed keeping the 2-foot-high Robert Cox Trophy for three years.
“The U.S. Women’s Am trophy is one of the most beautiful trophies in all of golf and I got to keep it for three years,” said Inkster. “The UPS lady kept saying, ‘Your trophy is back.’”
Inkster calls each of her Women’s Am wins “special,” recalling key championship highlights en route to her victories.
“Here in Portland at Waverly, I was 1 down going into 17, and I birdied 17 and 18 to win, 1 up,” she said. “In my third win … I beat one of my best friends, Cathy [Hanlon] Marino for the championship. I have a lot of great memories.”
Throughout her career, Inkster relied on short-game wizardry to produce 31 LPGA Tour victories. That intangible became a key component to her three Women’s Amateur titles, and gave her the confidence to take her game to the next level.
“It told me I could do it,” she said. “I didn’t start playing golf until I was 15, so to be able to win my first Women’s Amateur at age 20 was pretty good.”
Inkster later added two more USGA titles to her resume as a professional, winning the 1999 Women’s Open at Old Waverly Country Club in West Point, Miss., and the 2002 championship at Prairie Dunes, site of her inaugural Women’s Amateur victory.
“Being able to win the U.S. Women’s Open was always a dream for me, a real highlight of my career,” she said. “I lost the Open in 1992 in a playoff (against former San Jose State college teammate Patty Sheehan at Oakmont Country Club), and you never really know if you’re going to get the opportunity again. I would have been very disappointed if I’d never won an Open.”
Inkster’s match-play prowess also carried over from the amateur ranks to the Solheim Cup, a biennial professional competition between the United States and Europe. Inkster, who is at Portland Golf Club this week to work the Women’s Amateur telecast for Fox Sports 1, will captain the 2015 USA team next month in Germany.
For Inkster, match play success is something that came from within.
“I don’t like to lose,” she said.
“You don’t change your match-play philosophy, whether you’re an amateur or a professional. Match play has always been really big for me, kind of like an inner thing. I think it’s kind of in your DNA.”
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.