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July 2, 2003

Juli Inkster


RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, we're so pleased to have with us our defending champion, the two time Women's Open Champion, three time Women's Amateur champion, she has 5 USGA titles. I saw we had 14 teenagers in the field this week. Are you feeling a little older?

JULI INKSTER: I am. I could be a mother to all of them. But that's what makes the Open so special. It's an Open championship. You get the young, the old, foreign, American, all mixed in, and on a great golf course.

RHONDA GLENN: Do you come into this championship with a lot of confidence?

JULI INKSTER: Yeah, I mean I don't know about confidence, but I've got a good feel for where my game is right now. The thing with a championship like this, you just have to play smart. The thing that I try to do is just try to get there so Sunday I have a chance to win it. Some days you feel like your irons are going good, and you feel confident, you might play a little more aggressive. And some days when you don't feel as confident, play it in the middle of the greens, get your pars, and try to get birdies along the way. I think this is a great golf course. It's set up tough. It's going to be interesting. I don't think 9-under is going to win.

RHONDA GLENN: If you'll allow me one more question. This is my 27th Women's Open that I've attended. And I thought last year, Prairie Dunes, was terribly difficult. And looking at this course, this time, I think it's even tougher.

JULI INKSTER: It is tough. It's not only -- you don't hit a lot of drivers. The main thing is to get the ball in the fairway. But your iron shots -- and if you miss the green is extremely tough. And the greens are hard. They're very undulated. You're going to have a lot of 6, 7 footers just to brush in for 2-putts. And it's going to be tough. But I think it's fair. It's what you see is what you get. It's not really tricked up. That 2:15 tee time tomorrow should be great. I thought I was defending champion (laughter.)

Q. I have two questions, one, you had a great career before you won your first Open. What did it mean to win the Open? What has it meant to your career?

JULI INKSTER: Well, losing in '92 at Oakmont was really tough for me, because I thought that was my tournament. I played great. I wouldn't have done anything different. '99 was probably the most rewarding because -- you don't want to define your career as winning the Open or not winning the Open, because I think there are a lot of good players that have never won the Open. But in my mind growing up as a junior golfer, winning the Open was the ultimate for me. And to not have won an Open, I'd be very disappointed. But '99 was tough because it was my tournament. I had a 5 shot lead, a 4 shot lead or something like that, I ended up playing well and winning. And I really felt after winning that Open, everything else I do is gravy. I think two or three weeks later I won the LPGA Championship, and had a great year in '99. And then coming back last year, I know I didn't have my best game as far as ball-striking and stuff, but I think I won that tournament just on experience and making the putts when I needed to make them. And this year I feel a lot better about my swing and where my game is at. But again you have to go out there and play the golf shots. So I'm looking forward to it.

Q. The other question I had was you mentioned last year, your final round last year, it was one of the great rounds in women's golf history, and how great was it -- where does that round rank in your career?

JULI INKSTER: It ranks right up there. Not just the golf round, the whole story of winning my first U.S. amateur there and coming back 22 years later and not only winning the tournament, but still playing golf. And to have a chance to win it and playing against Annika, who is the best in the world, I mean it was awesome. And people -- I couldn't tell you how many people said, "I saw you win the Amateur", they were a little grayer, but aren't we all? But it was -- that was more sentimental Open win for me. I think the first one was more of a grinding Open. But last year was definitely -- I can't tell you all the people who have come up to me and said that was one of the best Opens they've ever seen or watched, and so exciting to watch it on TV. So that's great. It's great for women's golf.

Q. Having got your Open at Old Waverly, and getting the Grand Slam a couple of weeks later, how do you compare the fire coming into here compared to what it was in '99?

JULI INKSTER: Well, I mean I'm definitely -- I'm still very fiery, I'm still very fiery on the golf course, and I get mad and all that. I don't let it bother me as much when I go home. I'm definitely more laid back. I think everything I do right now is just icing on the cake. And I just feel like the reason why I stay out here and play is because I love to compete. And I love to compete against the best. And the best are out here.

Q. You played very well last week. Is it this event or this time of the year that it seems that your game kicks into high gear?

JULI INKSTER: Well, I'm very much a momentum player. And it seems after taking three months off or whatever, it takes me a little bit to get started. And I like this time of year, as it starts heating up, getting into the good tournaments, the good golf courses, and I seem to be -- I play better during the summer. The kids are out more with me, I don't have as much going on at home. So it's a little easier for me.

Q. Juli, you talked in the opening about the 14 teenagers, I think it's attracted so much attention, because you expect to see two or three, but to have that many. What's your take on that as somebody who has a daughter, kind of in the same age range?

JULI INKSTER: I think golf has become very popular. It's become very popular to play. I think a lot of kids are getting into it more than say soccer or basketball. It's more of an individual sport, they can do it on their own. You can play it after college, not only for playing it professionally, but it's great to play it in your work and in your business. And I don't know, I don't know why there's so many -- I didn't even start until I was 15. So it's really hard for me to comprehend what's going on. I look at my daughter, she's 13 and she's Instant Messaging everybody, that's her big thing. So it's hard to see where a lot of these girls are at at 13.

Q. Why do you think they've been able to be successful?

JULI INKSTER: I think a lot of it is there's so many teaching right now. When I just started, I'd take a lesson once every six months. Now you look on the range, everyone has their teacher, their video cameras. It's a business, and the technology is so superior that once these kids get started, they work with their teacher every day and their psychologist, they follow them everywhere. So the more people you have pushing you to play, the more you're going to play.

Q. Here we are again at the U.S. Open with the annual question about the relative lack of U.S. winners over the past few years. So what's your take on that?

JULI INKSTER: Well, again, I look at my kids. My kids are playing softball, basketball, baseball, they do dance, they do everything. I think that's kind of more the American way is to get them in all types of sports, and kind of let them pick and I think maybe the other countries, they pick one sport and they play it and they play it and they play it. And I don't know if that's the right way or the wrong way or what. But I just think that's why you have so many good, young players out here right now from different countries.

Q. I'm curious, if you only started at 15, where was golf on your radar when you were 13?

JULI INKSTER: It wasn't on my radar. I had two older brothers and I kind of followed their paths. I played a lot of basketball and softball and did that stuff. And the only reason why I really played golf was a got a job working at the golf course in Santa Cruz and parking carts and picking up the range one summer and decided maybe I'll just start. And it really -- the reason why I started, it gave me something I could do that I didn't have to compete with my older brothers. And once I started I fell in love with it because it is a game where you hit that one good shot and you wonder why you can't hit it again. And it just keeps you going. It's a -- I don't think it's a game you can ever conquer. You can one week maybe master it, but you could never conquer it.

Q. Were you good right away?

JULI INKSTER: It was funny, I was shooting in the hundreds and in the 90s and high 80s, and then, boom, I was in the 70s. I was 15 when I started. In the summer when I was 15 when I started, and I qualified -- so that was -- I qualified for my first U.S. Open in '78. And in '75 I just started. So three years.

Q. You talk about you're fiery, you still get mad. Does seeing this influx of youth, and especially people like Michelle Wie, does that stoke a fire inside of you, I'm Juli Inkster at age 43, and I can still --?

JULI INKSTER: Definitely. That stokes it all I need. And it's -- but that's just a way of life. It's just who's hot right now and everybody rides that wave. And I think I've been that wave for a long time. I've been up there a long time and someone comes on new -- Michelle Wie, she's impressive, 13, and the way she hits the ball a long way and stuff. But I still feel that I can come out and compete and win. But it does get me going.

Q. I think if you win this week you become the oldest champion of this tournament.

JULI INKSTER: I heard that somewhere.

Q. Since you've entered the Hall of Fame, I think you've won six times. How is it that you stay motivated while other players in that position might become more satisfied?

JULI INKSTER: You know what? I love the game. I have a passion for the game. And I love working on my game. I love practicing. I love trying to improve. If I didn't have the passion and the love for the game I know -- you can't do it. And I think that's what keeps me going. I love trying to have the perfect round or the perfect week or winning a golf tournament. I win and it's great, but I can't wait to play next week and try to do the same.

Q. If you started at 15, and got really good really quick, do you think in today's environment somebody who wants to be at the top of the game can start at 15 and make it?

JULI INKSTER: Well, I think it's your personality, because when I started at 15 I probably played my first junior tournament when I was 16. And I was so far behind these girls as far as skills and competition-wise and stuff. And it really made me work harder, because I knew I could get as good as those girls. And I think starting so late I never got burned out. And I had the kids and I took time off for that. I've never had that burn out effect where I get up and say, "Gosh, I don't want to go out and practice or play". And I think starting so late has helped me with that. I can't really say if someone else starts -- I think it's more how you're built, mentally-wise.

Q. You and Se Ri and Annika and Karrie, have won 15 of the last 17 majors. Is that because you guys are so good? Does it speak to the deficiencies of those who aren't winning, or if the answer is none of the above, what is it?

JULI INKSTER: I think winning a major championship, you just have to have everything going for you that week. You look at Annika, who is awesome, has all aspects of the game. Se Ri, same way. Same with Karrie. They're great players, they're going to win their share of major championships. And I think playing four rounds on a difficult golf course, I think you're going to get the best players. And those people are the best players. So I don't think it's a fluke, I just think as far as skill-wise, they're good.

Q. Why has Tiger seemed to win them all?

JULI INKSTER: Well, I think Tiger is really good. I think he's got a lot of skill and I think he's got a lot of those guys -- I think he's in their head a lot. I think sometimes they start playing his game, instead of their own game.

Q. There's so many of you winning so many majors, that it's hard for anyone, Annika at the moment, to be the intimidator that Tiger may be on the men's side?

JULI INKSTER: I think if you're looking at one person ,you're going to want to know where they're at, is Annika. But, again, I try not to get caught up with that. I know if she's playing good and I'm playing good, we're going to have a good match. Week-in and week-out she's going to beat me. She's just -- that's just the way it is. But come a few tournaments during the year, I know I can go head-to-head with her. And I enjoy that. That's why I practice. I love that. And if she beats me, I'm going to shake her hand and say, "Great tournament". That's what gets me out of bed in the morning to go practice.

Q. You talked about being fiery, could you revisit 18, six years ago.

JULI INKSTER: I've got that all mastered now. That's my domain.

Q. How does that rank as far as the angriest you've been?

JULI INKSTER: Well, that's the most stubborn I've been. But I've been stubborn, too. It's just one of those things. I spent a few times down in that little collection area. But I think I got that all ironed out, I'm ready to go.

Q. How at age 43, and this defending champ, how is the pressure different, how were your nerves different, say in 1978?

JULI INKSTER: You know, I still get nervous, and you want to get off to a good start. But it's a different type of nervousness, it's not a do or die, if I don't birdie the first hole, I don't feel like I'm going to win the tournament. It's just more the U.S. Open and the aura of the whole thing that you get nervous about. I get nervous in any tournament teeing off. But it's a good nervousness. It's a nervousness that you want. You want to have that.

Q. (Inaudible.)

JULI INKSTER: Well, I think you know how to handle it more. I think you know that having that is a good sign and not a sign of weakness.

Q. Are you pretty laid back as a basketball coach?

JULI INKSTER: We were 8 and 1 this year. You know what? I am very positive, very encouraging. I gave all my players their little rules. But it's tough, it's tough. One goes to the bathroom, they all go to the bathroom (Laughter.) It's classic, you know? It's a whole new world for me. But it was good. It was a lot of fun.

Q. What rules do you have?

JULI INKSTER: The rules? Well, I do have rules, and you guys -- we shared the gym -- I coached the 7th grade girls, my daughter's girls' basketball team. We had 7 girls on our team. We shared half the gym with the 8th grade boys. I said, "Anybody that's not paying attention, and watching the 8th grade boys, you guys are running lines". So who was the first one, was my daughter, just staring at those 8th grade boys. So they all ran lines back and forth. That was my major rule. But other than that I just wanted them to go out there and play hard and play good defense.

Q. The word "fiery" has come up about 12 times in this interview?

JULI INKSTER: You know what? It's funny, if it's myself and -- I'm more -- I put more pressure on myself than I do the other girls and whatever. Because I know their limitations, and I know they're out there to have fun and play as a team. So I don't put a lot of expectations on them. I say, "Okay, if we do this, we can do that. But it's up to you guys". I don't get mad. And I have never gotten a technical or anything like that.

Q. Any film of you on the sidelines?

JULI INKSTER: No, no film. I love getting off that bench and calling time out, that's the best. That makes my winter is coaching. It's a lot of fun.

Q. Because of your fieriness, I guess we should say, were you at all envious of Annika getting the opportunity to play in a men's event? Would you have loved to have had that opportunity?

JULI INKSTER: No, no. I play with the guys all the time. And they're really good. I just wouldn't want just the -- if I could just go out there and play, that would be great. But I wouldn't want the spotlight. I'm not -- that's not me. I love to compete -- I'd love to try it, but I wouldn't want what comes with that. As most of you know, off the golf course I'm very kickback and low key and I just couldn't handle all that media and attention for not one week, but -- all the questions I answered four months prior to that is tenfold her, and when I'm off the golf course, I like to be Juli Inkster, and I just couldn't handle that 24/7 of constant attention.

RHONDA GLENN: I think they had 600 reporters at Colonial, Annika told me.

Q. If Michelle Wie turns out what some people are projecting, she's going to have unprecedented media coverage from a very, very young age. Do you think that will be the most difficult things she'll deal with as her career progresses?

JULI INKSTER: Yeah, but just reading some of her -- seems like that's what she wants. She didn't want to be normal, she wants to be a leader out there. I just hope she still, ten years from now, she still loves the game, because I think it's a great game, and I hate to see you get burned out early, because I think it's a game you can play all your life. I'd like to see her enjoy it. And it seems like she's doing that now.

Q. The par-5s, how many of them, if you catch it good, can you reach in two and I wonder also if you could speak to the -- seems like a lot of them are 3-shot holes, would you like to see more where you have a good risk/reward of going for it in two?

JULI INKSTER: On 4, depending on the way the wind is blowing, you could get there to the front in two.

11, because -- you've got to stay on the left side of the fairway with the bunker there, I don't think it's worth it. I think if you've got an opening and stuff, go for it.

18 you can. I got there -- I was in my little collection area twice, with a good drive. So you can, but you've got to hit two good shots, which I think is good. I wouldn't want to see one where you're hitting an iron into.

End of FastScripts....

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