From the Golf Journal Archives - How Good is Juli Inkster?

Jul 27, 2012

The defending U.S. Women’s Amateur champion will seek her third consecutive championship, in Colorado. Her equipment: talent – and attitude.

By Judy Bell

(Note: This article originally appeared in the August 1982 issue of Golf Journal.)

AT A TIME when many of our tournament golfers display all the emotion of a computer bank during their competitive rounds, and when it seems almost fashionable to appear inscrutable, Mrs. Juli Simpson Inkster is a refreshing presence. She has won two consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships and, in the process, has shown no inclination toward inscrutability. Her face is a busy stage upon which her feelings play, whether it is joy as she rolls in a birdie putt, or distress as she strokes an approach shot into a greenside bunker.

At 22 years of age, she also happens to be a highly skilled performer who will be seeking her third successive championship August 16-21 when the Women’s Amateur is played in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, at Broadmoor Golf Club, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Mrs. Inkster won her first championship, in 1980, at Prairie Dunes Country Club, in Hutchinson, Kan., just weeks after her marriage to Brian Inkster, a golf professional at the Los Altos (California) Golf and Country Club. She defeated Patti Rizzo, 2 up, in the final match. Last year, beside the Willamette River, outside Portland, Ore., Juli successfully defended her championship at the Waverley Country Club, defeating Mrs. Lindy Goggin, of Tasmania, in the final match, 1 up. Mrs. Inkster birdied the final two holes – the only birdies of the match by either player – after being 1 down at the end of 16.

Carol Semple, the 1973 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, who lost semifinal matches to Mrs. Inkster in both the 1980 and 1981 championships, says of Juli: “She is a good, steady player who has the ability to get the best out of herself. Yet, even though she is demanding of herself, she is fun-loving.”

Juli’s effervescence was conspicuously on display during the minutes following her match-ending putt at Waverley. After accepting congratulations from Mrs. Goggin, Juli sat on a grassy bank near the green and close by the restraining rope, slapping her hand repeatedly on the turf and shaking her head. After her husband came near and remarked with a twinkle, “Hi, sport. Did you win?” Juli made a face at him, and said, “My nerves – I feel like I just drank 20 cups of coffee.”

Miss Rizzo, her victim in 1980 and now an LPGA Tour player, says of Mrs. Inkster: “She is a great putter. That’s what beat me at Prairie Dunes. And, she is a good thinker – Juli never gets frightened. She has the desire to go ahead and win.”

Although her birdie putt on the 18th at Waverley closed out her opponent, Juli faced a serious situation on the 17th hole. She had to hole a 15-foot putt to stay alive, while Mrs. Goggin was looking at a putt of 7 feet for the match if Juli missed. Mrs. Inkster made hers; Lindy missed.

CAROL SEMPLE, certainly one of the very best of our amateur players over the past decade or so, has good reason to remember Juli Inkster for reasons other than having lost to her twice in the Women’s Amateur Championships.

“The first time I saw her,” Miss Semple recalls, “was at the U.S. Women’s Open, in 1978, in Indianapolis. I played really well. In fact, I scared myself I was playing so well – and there, only two shots behind me, was this Juli Simpson.” Juli was only 18 at the time.

That same year, Juli reached the third round of the Women’s Amateur, where she lost to Vicky Singleton; Juli won the San Francisco City Tournament; she was medalist in the Lady Aztec Tournament for college players; and she was named to the All-America Team, when she was a freshman at San Jose State, in San Jose, Calif.

In the following year, she lost her first-round match to Peggy Kirsch in the Women’s Amateur, played at the Memphis Country Club, in Memphis, Tenn., and failed to make the cut in the Women’s Open, at Brooklawn Country Club, in Fairfield, Conn. She played college golf, but did not make the All-America Team.

Two years ago, she won the San Francisco City Tournament and again was named to the All-America Team before her major victory in the Women’s Amateur, at Prairie Dunes. In the fall, at Pinehurst, N.C., she was a member of the winning United States Team in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championships.

In 1981, she missed the cut in the Women’s Open at the La Grange Country Club, in La Grange, Ill., but reached the quarterfinals of the Women’s Trans-Miss before heading for Portland and her second consecutive Women’s Amateur Championship. Four months later, in December, she won the California State Amateur Championship, at Pebble Beach Golf Links, in Pebble Beach, Calif.

This year, Juli won six college tournaments and finished in a tie for third in the first NCAA Championship for women, played at the Stanford Golf Club, in Palo Alto, Calif., just a few miles from her home in Los Altos.

Miss Semple notes that Mrs. Inkster “doesn’t play in too many tournaments,” but it appears that she will have a busy August, with Colorado as the setting. Besides the Women’s Amateur, in Colorado Springs, she will be one of our amateurs to represent the United States August 5-6 against Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup Match, at the Denver Country Club, in Denver, Colo.

HOW GOOD IS Juli Simpson Inkster? In her last two Women’s Amateur Championships, she was just as good as she had to be. She has a very solid game, and her attitude is a great asset. Juli treats the game as a sport, and enjoys every minute of it.

To single out her strongest golfing skill, the vote would be overwhelming on the side of her chipping and putting. She says, “I like chipping and putting, and I think that that is where the game is at.”

This phase of the game, all too often neglected by many amateur golfers, is genuinely a pleasure for her: “I’ll go out with my radio and chip and putt until dark on many nights, and I probably spend about 14 hours a week on this part of my game.”

Yet, she sees her strongest area to be “course management – I try to start out making pars, and when I get warmed up, I’ll take chances when I think chances should be taken. You can really take some big numbers, so you shouldn’t be overly aggressive. Just play for pars, play for the middle of the green – and, some of the time, you are going to make some of those putts.” At that, she thinks that she sometimes plays too aggressively.

When she won her second successive Women’s Amateur Championship last year, she joined distinguished company; Miss Beatrix Hoyt (1896-98), Miss Genevieve Hecker (1901-2), Miss Dorothy Campbell (1909-10), Miss Margaret Curtis (1911-12), Miss Alexa Stirling (1916-20; there were no championships played in 1918 and 1919), Miss Glenna Collett (1928-30), Miss Virginia Van Wie (1932-34), and Miss Betty Jameson (1939-40).

The atmosphere will become even more rare in the record book for Juli if she is able to win at the Broadmoor; she would become the fifth player to win three consecutive championships during the 81 years in which it has been played. Misses Hoyt, Stirling, Collett, and Van Wie share this distinction. (No championships were played in 1918, 1919, 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 because of World Wars I and II. The Women’s Amateur began in 1895.)

Miss Barbara Mclntire, who was the Women’s Amateur champion in 1959 and 1964 and whose home course is the Broadmoor, is impressed by Juli’s accomplishments thus far: “Winning the National is the ultimate in amateur golf. When you think of all the things that must happen – to survive a field of 64 players in match play – it is amazing enough to win once. It is fantastic to win it twice in a row.”

YET, MISSES MCINTIRE, Semple, and Rizzo agree that Mrs. Inkster’s chances are excellent. Miss Semple sums it up this way: “Certainly she is one of our outstanding players. I think she will handle the pressure well, and knowing her, she will probably take the attitude that ‘What the heck – I have nothing to lose.’ ”

Miss Mclntire notes that Juli has “as good a chance as anyone else to win this year. She seems to get better and better as the week goes on during a championship.”

Patti Rizzo says, “She has a very good chance. She could do it again. You can have talent and natural ability, but without the desire and mind, the talent and natural ability are wasted. Juli is a consistent driver, and she tells me that she could chip and putt all day long.”

How does Juli answer the question of her chances of winning yet again? “It’s possible. First, you’ve got to qualify and play six matches. I must play my own game. I think I’ve proved myself, and I’m just going to go out there and have fun and play golf. If it happens, it happens. If I go to Colorado Springs acting like Joe Seriously, I’ll mess myself up. I’m not going to do anything differently.”

These reflections and the record book tell us that Juli Inkster is really good. Her game is sound, her desire to win is pronounced, she excels in managing herself on the playing field, and perhaps most importantly, she enjoys playing the game.

She will be deep in the hunt at Broadmoor, but whether or not she is successful, Juli Inkster has played her way into a very special place in the history of women’s amateur golf.

Mrs. Juli Simpson Inkster is a refreshing presence. She has won two consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships and, in the process, has shown no inclination toward inscrutability. (USGA Museum)

Juli is, perhaps, one of the most animated amateurs playing the game today in America, using her lively face and her 5-foot-9 frame to cajole her shots to go where they belong. (USGA Museum)