The Champ Is Emotional But Shes Just Juli


Juli Inkster was obviously out of control. She couldnt help it. Her emotions were running on overdrive, and after every birdie, she balled up her hand into a fist, swung her arm, and well, emoted. Then, after every such demonstration, she turned to her playing partner and apologized.
Her playing partner was Shani Waugh. Waugh knows that Inkster isnt a rub-it-in-your-face type. So she just laughed, realizing the energy that must be flowing through this woman Juli Inkster who was making a Sunday charge at the U.S. Womens Open.
Yeah, shes a world champion fist-pumper, Waugh said. She kept apologizing to me for her first pumps, and I was just getting a lesson. Im going to go home and practice a few myself.
Inkster is as energetic, as full of life, as any 42-year-old on the planet. She whooped and danced and laughed. She grimaced when the putts didnt go in. She was ecstatic when they did. She was playing exceptional golf, but more than that, she was having a great time.
I can see how she won so many tournaments, Waugh said. I think for a normal tournament she gets pretty pumped up, and today I wish I had half her intensity. I think I might be a better player.
Inkster couldnt help it. She shot a 66 on a very difficult course, and that was four shots better than the No. 1 player in the world. She won by a couple. You think she wasnt stoked?
And, of course, it was the Fourth of July weekend. It was apple pie, mom and a teenage girl cruising in a 10-year-old car on a Saturday night. Annika Sorenstam, the world No. 1, is a wonderful player. Se Ri Pak is enormously gifted. Karrie Webb can be awfully impressive. All three live in the States now after having spent childhoods around the globe. But this was the July 4th, and it was about a gal from California who was feeling as patriotic red-white-and-blue as a golfer can be, having just won this countrys national Open.
Its great, said Inkster. I am very much an American, and you know, Americans havent won the U.S. Open in awhile To be able to walk up 18 and them (the gallery) chanting, USA, USA ' that was pretty impressive.
After winning the McDonalds LPGA Championship in 1999, she talked about how difficult it is to be so wired up. Feelings run high for her, she was saying. She would like to remain on a steady line, she thinks it is an advantage to be more like the unflappable Sorenstam, but doggone it, she just cant.
I dont know ' I play with emotion, said Inkster. What you see is what you get.
I think the hardest thing for me is to stay calm, because Im kind of a fiery player, an aggressive player. I get down on myself. I just kind of learned to maybe stay a little more even-keeled out there, but I think Ive learned to enjoy it more, you know? Im enjoying it more.
Inkster is that kind of woman. She wears her emotions out where you can see them, and the other women on the LPGA love it. Waugh had a front-row seat, and what she was seeing made her a little jealous at the talent she was seeing.
It had everything, she said. She played great, she putted great, her passion for the game and for this tournament gave me a lesson today, and I found myself rooting for her. The passion she showed for the game at this tournament ' I really wanted her to win. . Anyone who shows that much passion deserves to win.
Frenetic Juli was about settled down by now. She loves golf, loves hubby, loves the children, and loves being the U.S. Womens Open champion. July 4th made her realize all over again just how lucky she is.
You know what? I think I just appreciate what I have out here, Inkster said. I think I appreciate the opportunity to play golf and to make a living and to do what I love to do.
If I would have done this in my rookie year or my first three, four years out here, I wouldnt have appreciated it the way I appreciate it now. Its like when I won two majors in my rookie year. They were just tournaments to me.
I think I dont put as much emphasis on my golf game as I used to. Believe me, I am very competitive out there. But if I dont play good, at least I work hard. I do the best that I can, and I go home.
For one wonderful day, she was the queen bee. Her best was good enough. When she went home, she might have been just Juli. But on this day, she was The Champ.
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