Inskster: Korean fans set standard for LPGA in U.S.

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Victorious American Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster sounds a little wistful in her return to the LPGA this week in South Korea.

While Inkster relished leading the United States in a historic come-from-behind victory against the Europeans in Germany three weeks ago, she is spending time now in a country that celebrates women’s golf like no other in the world. She’s teeing it up on a sponsor’s exemption at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea after spending last week there watching the Presidents Cup as a special guest of the victorious American team.

Female professional golfers in South Korea are more popular than male pros there. Inkster knew that, but it was reinforced with all the recognition she received as a spectator at the Presidents Cup.

Inkster wishes American LPGA pros were as celebrated in their American homeland.

“It's reverse in the United States,” Inkster said in a pre-tournament LPGA news conference. “Everybody knows the men. And the women, no one knows. And I don't know if that's because we have basketball, baseball, football, college sports. Most of the people that are running those are male-oriented. I wish it was more like this over in the States.”

Inkster was grateful for the “phenomenal” response to the American Solheim Cup victory in the United States, but . . . 

“I wish we would have gotten more response,” Inkster said. “I'm sure if it was the Korean team playing and coming home, winning something like that, it would have been amazing. Every year, you try to build from that. It's getting better, but you can always do better.”

Inkster was lauded by her American team for her role leading them to its Solheim Cup victory in Germany. Stacy Lewis, the highest ranked American woman in the world, said there was “a little bit of Juli in all of us.” Inkster’s leadership was game changing with her focus on some old-school values and some bonding techniques she borrowed from former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger’s pod system.

Inkster said she enjoyed watching U.S. captain Jay Haas and the American Presidents Cup team last week.

“Jay Haas and I have played a lot of golf together,” Inkster said. “We are very good friends. So he invited me. I stayed in the team room for a while. They geared me up with rain gear and hats and all that. I got inside the ropes. I watched Phil Mickelson for nine holes, and then I watched Billy Haas for nine holes. The atmosphere out there was amazing. I know they were rooting for the International team, but, also, I felt like they were rooting for the Americans. I think they just really like to see good golf, and there were a lot of great short-game shots that were played.”