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June 18, 2014

Juli Inkster


MIKE TROSTEL: Welcome to the 69th U.S. Women's Open here at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. We're here with five-time USGA champion, Juli Inkster. It's a pleasure to have her in the media center this morning. Juli won three consecutive U.S. Women's Amateurs, 1980, 1981 and 1982 and has won this championship twice in 1999, at Old Waverly Golf Club, and in 2002 at Prairie Dunes Country Club. This year making her 35th appearance in the U.S. Open most in the history of the championship, most strokes under par, 16-under at Old Waverly. 35th appearance, you could classify yourself as a veteran of the championship. How has the championship changed and evolved since you first played in the late 1970s?

JULI INKSTER: Well, you know, it's still the U.S. Open. It's still the coveted trophy that everybody tries to win. 2-35, I would still be sitting on the bench if I was a baseball player. I'm glad I have two. It's not an easy championship to win. You've got to have a little bit of luck. You've got to be playing very well coming into it, you've got to be mentally strong, physically sharp. But golf is still golf. There's still 18 holes, still a cup. I think the USGA has learned about setting up golf courses, as far as versatility. It doesn't always have to be five, six inches of rough to get a good champion. Different tee boxes, making it fresh every day for the players. And I think that's fun. I think in the early '70s and '80s, it was just hard. They watered before the greens, then let the greens get firm, rough. It was just a survival test. And now I watched a little bit of last week and it was tough. But you still saw a lot of really good shots.

MIKE TROSTEL: We had Lucy Li in here yesterday, 11 years old.

JULI INKSTER: I thought for sure I'd be playing with her (laughter). The USGA's little things, but, yeah.

MIKE TROSTEL: You're a few years older than Lucy.


MIKE TROSTEL: Is age just a number when you're out here playing in the national championship?

JULI INKSTER: Well, she's not as hardened as I am. She's still smiling (laughter). So age -- that's the beauty of golf. I can go out and play with her -- Lucy Li or go out or play with Lydia Ko and still have fun and compete and play golf. I've got two kids, so it's not like -- I know what they're thinking and stuff. That's the beauty of it, that's what I love about it.

Q. Over the last few days here women have come in here and been asked about, oh, it's so hot or how hard the course is. And it doesn't seem like anybody is complaining at all. I know you would love to give an entertaining comment to this, but do women complain less than men?
JULI INKSTER: Oh, no -- well, I think we're both equally bitchy, we can be really bitchy. I don't know, you know, I don't know if this is -- I think maybe we are a little more appreciative of being able to play in a Major championship like this and have a golf course set up pristine. We play great golf courses -- we play good golf courses, but sometimes we don't play great golf courses. It seems the men play great golf courses, week in and week out. I think when we come here we're maybe a little more appreciative of playing a great golf course. It's in fabulous shape. I really didn't know what to expect, us playing after the men. I thought, we've just got to see it, let it play out, because this is new territory for everybody. And it's turned out great. It's really -- there's some spots, but you can't even tell that the men were here the week before, except for the huge tents and everything.

Q. There are people who think that you shouldn't compare the men's and women's games, they're different games, and it's not really fair. But that's really what this whole week is about. Can you talk about how you hope this turns out, is there any danger in it?
JULI INKSTER: Well, I think if -- again, I think if we play this golf course really well and show really well, I think everybody will say, well, they're playing a lot shorter than the men. Which we are, we don't hit it as long as them. And if we don't do very well, then people will probably say, well, they're not as good as the men, anyway. Which we aren't. I mean, the men are -- I've played a lot with the guys and I've played a lot with the girls, and men can just hit some unbelievable shots. But I think we can compete out here with the guys. I think a lot of people that saw the men last week and will come out and watch us will be amazed at how well these girls can really play and the shots that they can really hit. I think sometimes everybody still thinks they hit it 225 off the tee. Well, these girls can bomb the ball, they've got great short games. So I think that it's -- I really think it's a win/win for the women. Our U.S. Open has been talked about more than it has ever. And it was fun to hear the guys say, hey, I'm really looking forward to seeing how the women play it next week. It's never been done. I think it's nothing but positives. We'll just see how it goes. I think the USGA knew what they were doing. I think they're going to set it up relatively the same as the men, but with shorter distance. It will be interesting to see how we do do.

Q. You kind of maybe answered this, I was curious what you thought the single best thing, best benefit is of having these back to back?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, I think the publicity we've gotten. It's all positive. I think the way the golf course is set up. And I think everybody is talking about it. I think everybody wants to see how this whole thing turns out. Right now I'd give it an A. It's going well.

Q. How realistic is it moving forward to have this become the new normal, to have the men and women share venues for one Major a year?
JULI INKSTER: Well, the USGA books so far out, the tournaments, their courses for men and women. I think if this goes well, I think you'll see more of them, which I think would be great. It's really hard to get the facility to handle two weeks and volunteers and the golf course. There's a lot of intangibles that go with this, but this is the perfect venue for it. It's a golf haven. Everybody we turn around there's greens and flag sticks and holes. They're everywhere. I think this is the perfect place to try this. I would love to see it happen more often.

Q. A quick follow-up. For the evolution of the women's golf, how big of a deal would it be in the big picture if this became sort of like tennis, once a year, that men and women are mingling?
JULI INKSTER: I think it would it be great. I think more of it. I'd love to see the women -- the LPGA and the PGA cross paths more. I think they could benefit and I think we could, too.

Q. What is your favorite memory of your first U.S. Open way back when?
JULI INKSTER: My favorite memory was walking down the last hole, I think with a five- or six-shot lead. I lost a tough one in '92 at Oakmont to Patty Sheehan in a playoff. And you never really know if you're going to get back there to win a U.S. Open again.

Q. What are your memories from your first U.S. Open?
JULI INKSTER: Oh, my first? I played as an amateur in 1978 in Indianapolis and I just started when I was 15. So I really didn't even know what the LPGA was. We didn't have the Internet, the TV or anything that. But all I remember is they had brand new Titleists on the range. And I'd hit one and I'd put one in my golf bag. And I'd hit one and I'd put one in my golf bag. I'm sure I was over the 50 pound limit flying home. But I had new golf balls. I remember everything was pristine. I've never seen anything like it.

Q. The women played St. Andrews at the Women's British Open last summer. The women played Oakmont for the U.S. Open. Why is it important to the women to play these historic venues?
JULI INKSTER: Well, I think it's -- I think a lot of it has to do with the fan base. I mean, the fan base have watched St. Andrews and they've watched Oakmont, and even when we played the Solheim Cup at Muirfield Village, these are golf courses that people have watched on TV. And I think it's important for us to play those golf courses, for them to know we can. I think even Jack Nicklaus was impressed when we played Muirfield Village and how well we played it. So I think the more top golf courses we play, that the men play, I think we're better off for that, because we can show our games.

Q. How much more difficult do you expect this course to play than a -- is it going to be a typical Women's U.S. Open or is it going to be harder?
JULI INKSTER: Well, I think even par, 1- or 2-under is going to be a great score. It all really depends on the weather, if we get a little more rain and the greens soften a little bit. If the greens firm up and -- it's tough. Even though the greens might be 30 deep, you really only have 15 yards to work with. And you've got to get the ball there. It's really hard to get the ball close to the pins to have 5-, 6-, 10-footers for birdie. Plodding and short game is going to be key.

Q. Any example in the practice round, any shot or hole that showed how hard it is?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, 2. I mean, 2, back right pin, I mean, where do you hit it? If you hit it right side it goes down. If you hit it left side it goes down. And if you hit it short -- you've got to hit a nice tall, high, 5, 6, 7-iron to get the ball close. Sometimes you've just got to say, okay, where is the best place to miss it? If I'm going to hit it five yards right of the pin, it's going to roll down, is it easier up and down from there. I wouldn't want to play it every day, but it's fun to play for a week.

Q. You talked about maybe there was, obviously, some trepidation from the players about what the course was going to be like after the men were over. You said you've been very pleased with it. What are you hearing from the other players in terms of being out here and what it actually is like compared to what their fears were?
JULI INKSTER: Women don't complain much, but I have to say I haven't heard one bad thing. I've heard nothing but positive. And I can say, before that, that probably wasn't the case. And everybody has been very pleased with the condition of the golf course and the facilities. I think the whole switch over, I don't know how they do it, from airport, cars, housing, in and out, I mean, it's been -- there's been no little hiccups. So it's impressive.

Q. And in terms of just the course layout, has that been, like you say, even better than you were expecting?
JULI INKSTER: Oh, yeah, because the greens are pure. But even the little chipping areas around it, I mean there's so many ways to play it that you're not going to -- everybody is not going to chip it and make divots. Everybody is going to putt or hybrids. So even where it looks beat up, it's still very playable.

Q. What do you make of Michelle Wie's start this year, and what do you see as the factors behind her sort of renaissance?
JULI INKSTER: Well, she's -- I think she's playing the game for her now. I don't think she's playing the game for anybody else. I can see a little passion in her of wanting to play. It's always easy to play when you're playing well, which she's doing now. But she works really hard at it. She doesn't really mail it in. She's out there practicing a lot. She's got great skills. I think it's great for our game. I think it's -- because, again, the media, fan base, they know Michelle Wie, and when she's in contention, our ratings go up. That kind of says it all. I think it's good for us. I think she's excited to play. I think there for a while that she was not putting well. When you're not putting well it's no fun to play. But I think she's seeing the ball go in, and she's making some putts, and I think she's actually enjoying it.

Q. Do you think that somewhere between the players meeting at the Founders Cup when Mike Davis came out and now sort of a light went on for most of the players that the potential rewards of all this are well worth the risks?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, I do. I think a lot of them the first reaction was, oh, man, the guys get to go first again. And da, da, da, da. But, you know, as I've said all along, you've just got to let it play out. It's not like the USGA it's the first tournament they've run. I'm sure they've thought through a lot of stuff. The weather was cooperative last week. They didn't have a playoff. I mean, that could have put a little hitch in the giddy up. But it's come off relatively smooth and I think everybody is very pleased.

Q. Taking yourself out of the equation, who do you like this week and why, in terms of who this course suits?
JULI INKSTER: That's a good question. I think there's a lot of people that are playing well. You can't bet against Stacy Lewis. She's just playing great. Inbee is playing great. I would love to see Webby (Karrie Webb). Webby (Karrie Webb) is playing well. I don't think it's going to be a first timer for some reason. I think it's going to be someone that's won before. I just think there's just a lot of intangibles out there that you've got to really know what you're doing. But there's a lot of people playing well. That's a good -- I don't really know.

Q. 35 of these, how many more do you think you might play in?
JULI INKSTER: This is probably my last one, yeah.

Q. Seriously?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah. I'm not playing much. I think I'm only going to play a couple more this year. And next year I'll probably just play like six tournaments, too. This is probably my last one.

Q. Does that make you sad?
JULI INKSTER: No, no, not at all. Shoot, I've played in 35 of these. So that's pretty impressive. So I'm very -- I love where I am right now. I look at the young girls out there and I'm like, wow, I'm so glad I'm not starting. So I've really enjoyed golf. I've really enjoyed the competition. I love playing. I've got a lot of new stuff, Solheim stuff, and doing a little TV commentating. I'm going to still be out here and be busy, but I'm definitely not going to play as much.

Q. What are your expectations for this week?
JULI INKSTER: Well, I'm not playing that bad. I just do little stupid stuff that I never used to do. My concentration is not as good as it used to be. But I think if I play my game I think I can finish in the top, you know, 15, 10, and I would be very happy with that.

Q. The bigger question is, when you think back to that first time you played in The Open, you think about 34 years, how do you see The Open, how do you see it evolving over that time, how has it changed?
JULI INKSTER: Well, here we're playing a week after the men. That's a big change. We have definitely played a lot longer golf courses now, a lot tougher golf courses. They don't hold back anymore. The pin placements are a lot tougher than they used to be. And so it's a real challenge. It's a real test. I really don't see them setting it up any different, except the length, as they do the men. They want to challenge you mentally and physically, and I think that's what they do.

Q. I wanted to ask you. I'm doing a piece on Cristie Kerr and the latest Mom Tour. Have you had any conversation with her, given her some Mom Tour tips, anything like that?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, I talk to Cristie all the time. It's not easy being a mom and playing golf. But she's got a good support system. Eric is out here every week. And they have a nanny helping her. I'm sure it's new for her. How old is Cristie, 36 or 35? It's been all about Cristie for all those years. I think that's a tough thing that, all of a sudden, it's not all about you, it's all about this little guy. And he's cute as a button. He's really cute. I think they're enjoying it. As I always say, golf is great, but it's -- kids are the best. I'm glad she's got the little one and I don't, though, that's for sure.

Q. What do you think about Inbee Park coming in here, defending champion. She went a little off the radar after last year winning so much. But then came back two weeks ago and won. What do you feel like her game is like coming into this?
JULI INKSTER: Well, I mean, it's really hard to be on all the time, everybody is scrutinizing every shot. And her and Stacy Lewis have been battling, one, two, one, two. And the media, Stacy finishes in the top 8 here, she's going to pass Inbee. I think sometimes it just plays with your head. But she's back on track. I think she went through a little phase where she really wasn't putting that great, which is unbelievable, because she's a great putter. But everybody goes through those little hiccups. Shoot, my Giants just lost four in a row, so everybody has a little -- got to get back on the horse. But she's a great player. I expect her to be up there, because she's a plodder, she just goes about her game. She hits a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, and she's a great putter, and that's what you need out here.

Q. How do you like your TV gig?
JULI INKSTER: I like it. I like the people I work with. I think when I kind of get the hang of it a little better, because they really don't tell you what to do or how to do it. So I'm kind of learning on the fly. I haven't dropped any F-bombs. I haven't gone viral. So I feel like I've done pretty good for two weeks (laughter). We'll see how it all plays out. I'm looking forward to it. I thought I'd miss playing, when I commentated Kingsmill and Alabama and I really didn't miss the playing part, because I was so focused on trying to talk. So I think if I can kind of get the hang of it, I think it will be fine.

Q. Can you elaborate on the Giants four game losing streak, first. Just kidding. Do you remember the first time or the times that you've played a Men's Open course, and even though there was separation in years, were you thinking about what had happened there for them?
JULI INKSTER: I didn't hear the last part.

Q. When you got to -- whether - I'm going to assume it was a Colonial or Oakmont or things like that, even though there was a separation in years between the Men's and Women's Opens, when you got there, were you thinking about what was in front of you?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, I didn't really watch much last week. I watched a little bit of it. When I played Colonial or Oakmont, I mean, I knew what the winning score was. But I really didn't -- I'm not really much of a TV golf watcher. I just kind of knew what the score was and really kind of what shots you needed. I think the courses can play so different with the weather and the way they set it up. But I think it's more -- it's better for us to play a golf course, more for the fan base, the audiences and the challenging, than it is really to compare men's and women's golf.

Q. And secondly, you said a minute ago that you're glad you're not starting now. Why are you glad? Why wouldn't you want to be 22 right now?
JULI INKSTER: Well, because, you know, I played through an era where I could have kids and travel domestically and bring my kids. I think it's really tough to be a mom and play out here, because you're going overseas so much. And I'm not sure that's the smartest thing is to bring your kids overseas. And I think -- I think it's just different. I grew up playing against all my college buddies and the camaraderie we had, and the bantering that we had, and I think it's just different out here. Not that it's good or bad, but it's more of a job. And this is no lie, in the '80s, on a Monday, you could blow a bomb off and no one was here. And now it's -- everybody's here on Sunday night and everybody is is playing, practicing on Monday, and it's a grind. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know, but I'm just glad I'm drinking with my kids (laughter) instead of putting diapers on them, that's for sure.

MIKE TROSTEL: Thanks so much. 8:24 off tee No. 1 tomorrow.

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