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June 26, 2013

Juli Inkster


CHRISTINA LANCE:  We are very happy to have here with us 1999 and 2002 U.S. Women's Open champion, Juli Inkster.  Juli, it's a special week for you, competing in your 34th Women's Open, which breaks the record held by Marlene Hagge.  What keeps you coming back for more?
JULI INKSTER:  More punishment?  I don't know.  I just love the U.S. Open.  Growing up that was the championship everybody wanted to win, so just being able to win it twice is a great thrill.  The USGA gave me a special exemption to play this year, and I want to thank them for that.  So I'm looking forward to playing.
It's a great golf course.  It's tough.  It's going to be a good test.  So we'll see what happens.

Q.  Just to follow up on that, what is it about the U.S. Open that makes it the one that you want to win most and everybody wants to win most?
JULI INKSTER:  Well, I think it tests all aspects of your game, not only your physical game, but your mental game.  Can you go anywhere in the world, and if you say you've won the U.S. Open, everybody respects that and gets it.  You know, wins are great, but if I never won a U.S. Open, I'd feel like my career is just not where it should be.  But winning a U.S. Open, I lost in 1992 in a playoff, and then to be able to come back in '99 and win it, it was a great thrill for me.

Q.  One of the things I'm interested in is how hard it is to not get to No. 1 in the world but to remain there, and I'm wondering if these days somehow it's different or harder than it used to be to sort of stay at No. 1 with the pressures?  Any thoughts on that?
JULI INKSTER:¬† Well, there are so many more players playing golf around the world.¬† When I first started playing, mostly American‑born citizens played golf.¬† Girls, they went to college, four years of college, and then we came out and played and we played against each other.¬† Now you've got I don't know how many countries that are on our TOUR, and we're getting the best of every country.¬† That's a lot of great players.¬† You know, I think injuries and passion for the game I think plays a big role.
Most of these girls are starting off really young playing, and by the time they get out here, they've played ten years of competitive golf, and now you're asking them to play another ten years or whatever.  It's just a lot of golf, a lot of wear and tear on your body.  I didn't even start playing until I was 15.  So I think it's just different times and a lot of different great players coming from all over the world.

Q.¬† As a follow‑up to that, we've had a couple of very long‑time champions.¬† I mean, three, really, with Annika, and Lorena and Yani was No. 1 for a long time.¬† How have they done it, do you think, and sustained No. 1 for that long?
JULI INKSTER:  Well, I think, number one, they're great players, and I think a lot of them had a lot of outside interests.  I know Lorena Golf was what she did, it wasn't who she was.  She had a lot of outside interests.  Every time she'd come back, she'd come back fresh.  Annika the same way.  She had a lot of things going on.
I just think a lot of these girls, golf is what they do, and I think it's just really hard to sustain that.
Inbee is playing great right now, and she's just ‑‑ every week she's right in the hunt.¬† They're just‑‑ you know, Lorena, Yani, and ‑‑ you're going to have the exception to the rule.¬† It's like a Tiger.¬† He's an exception to the rule.

Q.  If you were to give advice to, let's say, Inbee about how to sustain being No. 1, what would you tell her?
JULI INKSTER:  I would say when you don't play, don't play.  Just get away from it.  Do something that you're really passionate about, whether it's just laying on the couch or shopping or working with a charity or getting involved in something else.
A lot of these girls, like Inbee, when we have a week off here, she goes over and plays in Japan, so they're playing a lot of golf.  And I think sometimes you just kind of get burned out.

Q.  What do you remember about that first Open when you were an amateur?  Also being an amateur, what were your expectations going in?
JULI INKSTER:  Well, I qualified when I was 18, so I had only been playing golf for three years.  I had no expectations.  I never really followed women's golf.  I wasn't a big TV watcher, so I didn't know that much.  It was in Indianapolis at Indianapolis Country Club.
The story I remember the most was going out to the range and seeing all brand‑new Titleists.¬† I was like, whoa.¬† So every day I fleeced a few and put them in my bag and took them home (smiling).
But I remember seeing Nancy Lopez, and a JoAnne Carner, and I remember I shot 80 my first round, and then I shot 72 to make the cut, and then 72 something.  So I played well.  I just remember just how tough and challenging it was.

Q.  You and your peers who won the U.S. Open were so inspirational to players all over the world, and now it's really caught on.  It's like nine majors in a row won by players from Asia.  What are your thoughts about the state of American golf, and what does that mean for the health of this sport?
JULI INKSTER:  Well, I mean, it's just different cultures.  I mean, I've raised two girls, and I had my girls in everything.  They did dance, they did music, they did golf, they did basketball.  I just kind of let them find their own path.
Over in Asia it's a little different.  If the parents want the girls to play golf, they play golf, and they do it really well.  They've got great training facilities over there, great teachers.  It's just different.
I'm not saying my way is right.  I'm not saying my way is wrong.  I'm just saying it's two different cultures combined together, and the girls are just really good players.  So I don't know.  I don't know how to explain it, but they're born to win, and they do it well.

Q.¬† I have an unrelated follow.¬† I think Paula was in here and said that ‑‑ she was quoting you saying this part of the world, this part of Long Island especially, is like a golf paradise.¬† What golf have you played around here and what do you think about this part of the country for golf?
JULI INKSTER:¬† Well, being from the West Coast, I haven't played‑‑ the only golf course I've played out here is Deepdale, and that was in a Pro‑Am a long time ago.¬† I've really never been to this part of Long Island.¬† This is really my first experience out here.¬† I've watched it on TV, but I haven't been out here playing.

Q.  I was just curious if you could give us your first impressions of the course the first time you saw Sebonack and how much you've played since?
JULI INKSTER:¬† Well, I came a couple weeks ago and played a couple days here.¬† It's pretty generous off the tee.¬† It's long.¬† The greens are‑‑ your approach shots and the greens are going to be where you're going to win the tournament.¬† Depending what the wind does, it's going to be tough.¬† It's going to be long, long hours out there.¬† I haven't played it since then.
I played in the CVS Charity Classic on Monday and Tuesday, so I just got in last night.  I'm going to go out there this afternoon and play.
But I mean, it's kind of out there in front of you.  You've just got to kind of play the slopes and you've got to hit some accurate shots.

Q.  Does it remind you of any other Open event?
JULI INKSTER:¬† No, it's really different.¬† The front side is really linksy, and the back side is a little more woodsy, kind of Monterey Peninsula‑ish.¬† So I think it's kind of two different golf courses meshed together.¬† It's going to be interesting how it plays.

Q.  You mentioned the charity event earlier this week.  How do you adjust your practice when you play an event like that during Open week, and have you ever done that before?
JULI INKSTER:  I have.  You know, I got in here and did my homework, what I needed to do.  I have to say I feel very rested and relaxed because I maybe just got in and haven't stressed out yet.  So I feel like I'm playing pretty good.  So I'm looking forward to playing.
CVS is a big sponsor of mine, and I really enjoy going up there and playing.  Unfortunately it fell at a really bad time, but you kind of just deal with the cards you're dealt with and you go out there and make it the best you can.

Q.  Another question about the greens here.  Are there any comparable green complexes that you're familiar with like these greens that you've played in tournaments?
JULI INKSTER:  No.  They're unique, yeah.  I'm glad I'm only playing them once a week.  Or once a year, I should say.  They're tough.  I mean, you've got to just get them on the right side of the hole.  Birdies are going to be tough, but that's usually the way the Opens are.  You've just got to try to make par when you should make par and try to limit your mistakes.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about the popularity of the women's game in this country now compared to when you first started playing?
JULI INKSTER:  Well, I think golf in general is very popular.  I think our TV ratings are up.  We're really popular over in Asia, Korea TV, Japan TV.  I mean, we're more popular than the guys over there.  We have a lot of good, young American players with Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda and Morgan and Paula.  I think people rally behind them, and I think they get behind them.  That's fun to see.
When I first came out, our TV wasn't as good, but we had a lot more American players, and I think a lot more people probably could relate to them.
I think it's kind of hard to differentiate one Kim to another.  But being out here, I mean, they all have really different personalities, and they're a lot of fun.  It's just hard for the American culture to get a grip on them.

Q.  Yesterday we attended Paula Creamer's clinic, and she named you as one of her biggest golf idols.  How can you describe your relationship with Paula and the other younger players?
JULI INKSTER:  I have two girls, 23 and 19.  So I relate really good to them.  I don't give them my credit card, but they give me their credit card.  But I have a good rapport with them.  I've always kind of had an open door policy.  Paula and Morgan and Natalie, some of those girls really took advantage of it.  Played a lot of practice rounds with them.  They just kind of picked my brain.  I just kind of told them what I think helped me play out here.  I have a lot of respect for them as players and as people.
They can go out and want to beat your brains out, but then they go home and they dress up and they like to have fun.  They've got a lot of different things off the golf course they like to do.  That was a big thing for me is find something else you like to do besides golf, and I think it will help your longevity.
I've played with Paula on Solheim Cups a lot, and when you play on a Solheim Cup you really bond.  Paula reminds me a lot of my daughters, and I've just kind of treated her that way.

Q.  Can you win this golf tournament?  And before you answer that, would it take lightning in a bottle for that to happen?
JULI INKSTER:  Maybe not lightning.  No, I'm playing good.  If I can just get out of my way and play, I think I'll be fine.  The key to me is just kind of get off to a good start.  Have a good Thursday.  Just kind of slowly get in the hunt.
Come Sunday, if I'm in there, I think I have a great shot.

Q.  You mentioned a couple of times that it's just so important to get away from golf when you're a golfer.  What was it for you over the years?  What got you away from it and cleared your head?
JULI INKSTER:¬† Well, I had two kids, so that kind of‑‑ I felt like I was wearing two hats all the time.¬† But when I was their age, between 24 and 30, I loved to play any sport.¬† I played on a basketball team, I played on a softball team.¬† I just loved to stay busy doing different things.
I would still put my time in.  If I took a week off, I would take the first four days off and then I'd practice a little bit.  But I always tried to find something that I really enjoy.  Now, sports is my big thing.  I love going to any sporting event.  I like to cook, and I like to work out, and I like to travel.  With my kids being 23 and 19, I take some girl trips and we go to different places.
I just feel there is so much out there, and these girls have such a great opportunity to do different things in their life.  I think they should do it.

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