Inkster has conquered The Broadmoor before

Juli Inkster during the U.S. Women's Open.

Juli Inkster during the U.S. Women's Open.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Under the shade of two tall pine trees just behind the grandstands at the 18th tee is a wall that carries the names of a handful of players to have found U.S. Golf Association glory at The Broadmoor. Among those few distinguished names, which includes Annika Sorenstam and Jack Nicklaus, is that of one player in the U.S. Women’s Open field this week: Juli Inkster.

Inkster, 51, is inevitably asked to recall her 1982 U.S. Women’s Amateur win here, the third of three consecutive Women’s Amateur titles she won before turning professional the following year. That title was won at The Broadmoor’s Mountain Course – this week’s tournament will be staged on the East – but mountain golf is mountain golf. And Inkster knows how to play that game. It’s all about consistent ball-striking, fairways and greens.

“You know, I grew up on greens like this,” she said. “A little bit of poa, very undulated greens. It’s all about speed and distance control.”

Much has changed for Inkster in the nearly 30 years since she won that title, but nothing dims the memory nor diminishes the accomplishment. She says she was hungrier then than now, but this is the same player who has three top 10s in 10 starts so far this year, and is No. 9 in Solheim Cup points.

“I don’t think my game was as good back then as it is now, but I think the competition is a lot better than it was back then,” she said.

When Inkster speaks, it’s done thoughtfully. She talks of LPGA past and present with downcast eyes, searching for the right insight on something she’s been an integral part of for nearly 30 years. Today’s tour is certainly more worldwide, more corporate than the golf “sorority” of yesteryear, and filled with players like Yani Tseng, whom Inkster calls fearless.

“I’m glad I’m not starting my career, I’m glad I’m where I am at right now,” she said. “But, you know, I think raising a family now would be a lot tougher than raising a family back then, because we used to just throw everything in a car or a van and take off.”

Hang around Inkster too long and you’ll catch many an age joke. She carried a swing aid to the podium for her Tuesday afternoon press conference and referred to it as her cane. Told that she and Karrie Webb were the only active players with more major titles than 22-year-old Tseng, she laughed that perhaps Tseng would retire before catching her.

In a field that includes 25 amateurs, it’s easy to see why Inkster makes those jokes, but the two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion and three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion is nothing short of spry on the golf course. She played a practice nine in trendy flat-soled shoes Tuesday, drawing frequent requests for autographs and repeated cheers as she joked with gallery members and fellow players Wendy Ward, Pat Hurst and Karrie Webb.

“I enjoy the game,” she said of her ability to remain competitive through the years. “You know, I think if you have a passion for what you do, to me it’s not really work. To me ... it just pecks away at me, because it seems like you can never conquer it.”

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