Thats what makes LPGA Corning Classic defending champion Juli Inkster so special. In a time when the next big thing is usually the next youngest thing, Inkster, a 43-year-old mother of two, is still around to prove everybody wrong.
Half of her 30 career LPGA wins have come after the age of 37, and she has won at least one tournament every year since 1997. She is a seven-time major champion and member of the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame.
Juli Inkster defends two tournament titles this year, with the first being this week at the $1 million LPGA Corning Classic. The event is in its 26th year, and defending tournaments is something that Inkster does pretty well. She has posted repeat wins on five different occasions, with the most recent being in 1999 and 2000 when she won the Longs Drugs Challenge and the McDonalds LPGA Championship in consecutive years.
Inkster is going to have plenty of competition this week at the tightly designed and hilly Corning Country Club course, as the worlds best have descended on upstate New York. The field features 2004 tournament winners Cristie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa, Jennifer Rosales, Sherri Steinhauer and Annika Sorenstam, who is a member of the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame.
Other members of that elusive club competing this week are Beth Daniel and Betsy King. Sorenstam, who has won two of the five LPGA events she has competed in this year, is making her first trip to the LPGA Corning Classic since 1995 and only her third overall. In 1994, she tied for 21st at the event and a year later tied for seventh.
Ochoa, the 2003 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, comes to Corning on a high note. She won her first-career LPGA title two weeks ago at the Franklin American Mortgage Championship benefitting Vanderbilt Childrens Hospital.
Like Ochoa, Rosales recently became a Rolex First-Time Winner. The stylish 25-year-old carded a final-round 65 at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez to come from four strokes back and earn her first LPGA win.
To claim her second-career win at the LPGA Takefuji Classic, Kerr had to work overtime in cold and rainy conditions. She battled rookie Seol-An Jeon in a playoff before securing the win with a par on the seventh extra hole.
And last weeks winner, Sherri Steinhauer, comes to Corning Country Club with after recording career win number six at the Sybase Classic Presented by Lincoln Mercury. Steinhauer has competed in 11 LPGA Corning Classic events, with her best finish coming in 1998, where she tied for 5th.
Last year, Inkster ran away from the LPGA Corning Classic field with a final-round, 10-under-par 62. In the process, she tied the LPGA record set by fellow LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame members Mickey Wright (1964 Tall City Open) and Kathy Whitworth (1968 Holiday Inn Classic) for the lowest final round by a winner in LPGA history. She finished the 72- hole event with a tournament record 264 (-24), and was four shots clear of second-place Lorie Kane.