Juli Inkster admits family demands make it harder every year for her to compete on the LPGA. In the final round of the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship, however, she made it look downright easy.
Inkster had plenty of younger players nipping at her heels May 5 on the final day of the event that was once again plagued by rain. But the 41-year-old mother of two outplayed them all with a final-round 66 that included an eagle on No. 18 at water-logged Eagle’s Landing Country Club.
“I don’t have to remind anybody that I’m still out here,” said Inkster, who has won at least one tournament for six consecutive years. “When I’m playing well, I’m capable of playing as well as them.”
The victory gave her a total of 12-under 132, two shots better than first-round leader Kelly Robbins, 32, who also eagled the par-5 18th to finish at 10-under 134 in the 36-hole event, which was shortened from 54 holes after two days of incessant rain.
Laura Diaz, 27, finished third at 135, with Se Ri Pak, 24, and Grace Park, 23, at 136.
Inkster, who took the lead for good with a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 14, was cheered on by husband Brian and their daughters, Hayley, 12, and Cori, 8. Inkster lends a hand with schoolwork, and also helps coach her children’s basketball and softball teams.
“Sometimes, with all that’s going on at home, I’m not ready to play,” Inkster said. “To come and win with my family here, and not know how many more times I can do it, that makes it more special for me.”
Robbins led after an opening-round 64 Friday, finishing her round before the weather wreaked havoc. Like Inkster, she had to wait nearly 48 hours to take her next shot because of rain that forced two delays and two suspensions of play. And she looked plenty rusty in the final round, as an erratic driver and shaky putter led to three bogeys on the front nine.
“I couldn’t find my swing,” she said. “Blame the day off? I don’t know. OK, sure, I will. I thought I would play better early.”
Still, her birdie-birdie-eagle finish made her a runner-up for the third time in this event.
Although Robbins made it through a 1-hour, 20-minute delay Friday morning, 81 players – half the field – weren’t able to finish when a howling thunderstorm halted play in the afternoon. They returned to the course early Saturday in cool, drizzly conditions. But play lasted only 21⁄2 hours before the rain intensified, causing a third stoppage.
After waiting for nearly 21⁄2 hours, the next attempt was downright fruitless, lasting only 52 minutes before the showers returned.
The event has been plagued by stormy weather throughout its 11-year existence. This is the sixth year rain has halted play.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Laura Davies. “If there’s one tournament that deserves a really great week, it’s this one. The course is great. . . . The purse has gone through the roof. It’s a great field. But we’re not able to show what we can do.”
Everyone, that is, but Inkster.