REGINA, Sask. – Juli Inkster can be forgiven if she can’t quite recall her victory in the 1984 Canadian Women’s Open. The memories are a little bit cloudy seeing as how it happened 34 years ago.
Just by way of reference, 13 years after that win Brooke Henderson was born.
But one moment still stands out, still firmly etched in her memory bank.
“I remember on Saturday I shanked my tee shot out of bounds on the 16th hole,” she said, punctuating the comment with a laugh. “And then I hit it on the green and made four. That’s all I remember.”
Back then, the tournament was known as the du Maurier Classic and it was a major on the LPGA Tour. In her rookie season as a professional, Inkster had already stunned the golf world by winning one major, the Nabisco Dinah Shore in April. She arrived at Toronto’s St. George’s Golf and Country Club with her game still red hot and won her second of the big four, outlasting Japanese star Ayako Okamoto by a single shot.
At 58, Inkster is still competing although she plays a limited schedule. The CP Canadian Women’s Open is just her 10th start of the season and in her previous nine events, she’s played the weekend just once. She did manage a second-place finish at last month’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open for players 50 and over.
She may have trouble keeping up to the kids on the regular tour these days but on Wednesday as she made her way around at the Wascana Country Club as part of the pro-am, she was still grinding on her game. She re-hit missed putts, trying to dial in the speed and kept working on her swing, hoping to find the sweet spot. There’s simply no quit in her.
“I still like to play and I want to play well when I do,” she explained. “I love the game.”
Inkster did admit that a good part of the reason she’s still out on tour is to keep an eye on “my girls,” as she called them. That would be her team members for the Solheim Cup which she will captain for an unprecedented third time in 2019. She’ll be looking for a three-peat from the squad when they play at Gleneagles in Scotland next September.
“It’s just more comfortable when we get around to the competition if they get to know me before,” Inkster explained.
When it comes to today’s players, the World Golf Hall of Fame member offered up an observation before quickly altering it.
“They’re so much better today,” she stated, before changing that. “Actually, it’s a different type of player today. It’s all about power now. They’re taught so much differently. We were taught to sweep the ball, now it’s about hitting it hard.”
The other major change to the game over the decades is easy to see. It’s the diversity of the players. In her heyday, she said, it was almost all U.S.-based. The change is a welcome one, she added.
Inkster is back this week in part because of her love of Canada and the people. Being a big hockey fan – the San Jose Sharks are her team – she can relate to the fans on a sticks and pucks level as well as a golf one. She’s hoping to play well here in Regina and add to her record of having made the most cuts in the tournament’s history, which stands at 23.
Of course to do that, she’ll probably have to avoid shanking any out of bounds.