Juli Inkster provides invaluable veteran leadership - COPIED - COPIED

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 Solheim CupSUGAR GROVE, Ill. ' Normally, kids dont like to see their moms cry.
 
But when Juli Inkster wept during her speech during a U.S. Solheim Cup dinner Tuesday night, her adopted children loved it.
 
Inksters 11 teammates were as moved as she was.
 
She had a half dozen of us crying, Christina Kim said. She talked about how this was the best damn team shes been around, how this team has so much heart and how it embodies what the Solheim Cups about. She started crying, and Ive never seen Juli Inkster cry before.
 
Juli Inkster
Juli Inkster has a 6-1 singles record in the Solheim Cup. (Getty Images)
American captain Beth Daniel said she worried about this teams chemistry. She wondered whether the fiercely individualistic natures of these players would prevent them from understanding what it means to be a team. Boy, she said Wednesday, was she wrong.
 
Its been unbelievable, Daniel said. Its beyond all my expectations.
 
Inksters amalgamating presence is a big part of that.
 
Shes got so much belief in us, Kim said. Its as if weve got a third parent with us, and shes for all of us. Its pretty inspirational, just knowing that she believes in us.
 
At 49, with her heart committed to what might be her final Solheim Cup, Inkster s devotion to the event and her teammates works like a bonding agent.
 
Inksters leadership skills were large among reasons Daniel named her as a captains pick. Inkster won three majors before Solheim Cup rookie Michelle Wie was even born. Inkster has a daughter Wies age entering her sophomore year at Loyola Marymount. Still, Inkster s competitive nature wants more. Its been a tough year, her first without a top-10 finish since she joined the LPGA in 1983, but shes eager to mix it up with the kids and win some points this week.
 
I never feel old, but these girls make me feel young, Inkster said.
 
Throw out Inkster , and the average age of the American team is 26.
 
She keeps joking that shes staying in the adults room and we all have to stay in the kids room, said Morgan Pressel , 21, making her second Solheim Cup appearance.
 
This might be Inkster s last Solheim Cup team, but she isnt ready to say so yet.
 
I get asked that all the time, but well see, she said. Well take it one year at a time.
 
Team chemistry may be overrated, but not in the eyes of Daniel, who has played in eight Solheim Cups and served as an assistant captain in another.
 
Golf is such an individual sport that its very difficult sometimes to get into a team mentality, Daniel said. I stressed to all of them, it takes 12 players.
 
And unless I have all 12 on board, were not going to win this.
 
A Hall of Famer, Inkster knows how to win whether shes playing for herself or as part of a team. Her 31 LPGA titles, seven of them major championships, is testament to her abilities. So is her 6-1 singles record in the Solheim Cup. Shes 14-8-5 overall. If she wins just a half point this week, she will be the all-time leader in points scored by an American. She shares the mark with Meg Mallon at 16 points.
 
Daniel liked the way her team responded to Inkster s speech at the team dinner.
 
She also liked what she saw when the team flew back from the Ricoh Womens British Open for its first practice together after the team was officially named.
 
Daniel said she left the team quarters at Rich Harvest Farms the morning after their arrival to make a television appearance at 5:30 a.m.
 
It was still dark, it was foggy, Daniel said. And who walks out of her room onto the practice putting green with her putter and golf balls but Juli Inkster.
 
Daniel said Paula Creamer, Kristy McPherson, Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel followed Inkster out the door to the putting green.
 
You can't be a better leader than that, Daniel said. And they've been putting at night. Five of them have been putting like every night, and you know they're following Juli's lead. To them, this is why she's a Hall of Famer, because she practices like this. So it's a great learning experience for all of them, too.
 
Watch exclusive GolfChannel.com LIVE streaming coverage of Day 1 of the Solheim Cup, Friday from 2 pm- 4 pm ET.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Solheim Cup
  • Meet the European Solheim Cup team
  • Meet the U.S. Solheim Cup team
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