Juli Inkster Receives USGA’s Highest Honor, The Bob Jones Award | Golf News and Tour Information

The USGA’s highest honour, the Bob Jones Award, is presented annually to a golf player who demonstrates great character, respect and sportsmanship. On Friday, the governing body announced that Juli Inkster had been named the 2022 recipient, joining some of golf’s greatest, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez.

“Juli exemplifies the true nature of this award in every way,” said USGA CEO Mike Whan. “The game of golf is better because Juli is in it. She has earned respect throughout her impressive playing career, but more than that, her mentorship of other players has had a huge impact on so many players. We are very lucky to have him in the USGA family and are thrilled to honor him with this prestigious award.

Inkster grew up in Santa Cruz, California and played high school and college golf in the area. While playing at San Jose State, she won three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships from 1980 to 1982. Her success continued after turning pro in 1983, when Inkster would go on to win 31 times on the LPGA Tour, including two US Women’s Open (1999, 2002) among seven major titles. In 2015, she was named captain of the US Solheim Cup and led her team to one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the game, winning 14½-13½ in Germany. The team won again under its captaincy in 2017 at Des Moines G.&C.C. before suffering a narrow defeat at Gleneagles in 2019.

Inkster, 61, has continued to play at LPGA Tour events and says she intends to play at least once in 2022. When she spoke to a few members of the press about the award, she said was touched by recognition.

“It’s surreal. I mean, Bob Jones is a legend in the game of golf, and for me to think that I’m going to be on this trophy with all these other great players and great ambassadors of golf, it’s very humbling,” Inkster said.

Although she has accomplished a lot in her career, these three consecutive victories as women’s amateur in the United States are close to her heart. She was only the third woman to win the title three consecutive years, after Glenna Collett (1920-30) and Virginia Van Wie (1932-35).

“Looking back on my career, people ask me, What is your greatest accomplishment? One would be the Solheim Cup captain, but the other would win three US championships in a row,” Inkster said. “Winning 18 games in a row at three different golf courses in three different years is really hard to do. So that’s really what I’m most proud of. And then being able to add some US Opens to that.

At her first US Women’s Open in 1978, Inkster remembers how inexperienced she truly was.

“It was my first time traveling outside of California. I qualified for the US Open at 18 at the Indianapolis Country Club, and I used to play with the golf balls I found in the canyons of Pasatiempo, and I’m getting there and they’re all new Titleists, and so I took a few home with me,” Inkster said with a laugh.

Of her two US Women’s Open victories, the more difficult of the two was her second, at Prairie Dunes in 2002. Inkster remembers just not having it that week, but still managing to around the course and holding off Annika Sorenstam, who finished second by two strokes. Inkster was 42 when she won, becoming the second oldest woman to win the championship.

“I hit the ball horribly, but got up and down the trash cans. I just kept myself in it. These greens are so tough. I haven’t had a three putt all week. Then Saturday night I was the last one on the beach trying to find something. I remember Brian [Inkster’s husband] Go, Can we go home now?laughed Inkster. “Finally I found something, and I took it to the range the next day and it helped me. I got off to a really good start. Birdie 2 and I was starting to hit a lot of greens and I always put on well.

“I just played an incredible round of golf, especially at this golf course. But I had ups and downs. On the 15th, did a big back and forth from right to left and took about 15 feet for par. It was one of my best grinding weeks ever.

Inkster is the only woman to have won the US Women’s Open while being a mother. (Others won it and went on to become mothers after the victory.) Just six weeks after giving birth to her eldest daughter, Hayley, in 1990, Inkster was on the road to play in the Nabisco Dinah Shore Championship, a major tournament.

“We didn’t have maternity leave. We didn’t have daycare and I didn’t have the best year in 1989, so I had to go out and play,” Inkster said. “I don’t know if it was good or bad, but I did it. Hayley slept in closets and bathrooms and wherever it was dark. I travel with my parents and I’m not sure if I play good golf or be a good mother or be a good wife or whatever, but you know, I did it and I think that made me stronger. I know it’s made me a better mother, so I think once you’ve done that, I feel like you think you can do anything, you know.

It’s what made Inkster a beloved Solheim Cup captain, a major champion and now a Bob Jones Award winner – her tenacity, her determination and the inner belief that she really can do it all.

“I never give up. I just keep going,” Inkster said. “You never know when you’re going to hit that shot that gets you going or make that putt that gets you going.”

Michael C. Ford