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Inkster Will Be Seeing Doubles

LPGA logo for LeaderboardsSTOCKBRIDGE, Ga. ' If youre an LPGA player at this weeks Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez, whats more intimidating than staring down 28-time champion and LPGA Tour Hall of Fame member Juli Inkster? How about 3,000 mini-Juli Inksters, bobbing their heads as the real deal walks down the fairway as defending champion?
Thats the scenario this week at Eagles Landing Country Club near Atlanta as a stacked field of 144 players will be surrounded by Juli Inkster bobblehead dolls, a giveaway to the first 1,000 fans through the gates each day Friday through Sunday.
Dolls aside, Inkster really doesnt need any help in the intimidation department. The reigning U.S. Womens Open champion has not only won often, shes won the same events several times, which should make her a crowd and odds-on favorite this week at the 12th staging of the tournament.
Inkster has won nine different LPGA events more than once, and shes successfully defended titles five times. And she may be due for a back-to-back victory this week. The last title Inkster successfully defended was the McDonalds LPGA Championship, 1999-2000. But Inkster and her bobbling army will face some stiff competition.
The Chick-fil-A has pulled one of its strongest ever, with 49 of the top 50 on the money list scheduled to compete, including 2003 champions Wendy Doolan, Se Ri Pak, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Candie Kung.
In addition to Inkster, eight other players who have found success at Stockbridge Country Club are in the field - former champions Laura Davies (1995), Sophie Gustafson (2000), tournament host Nancy Lopez (1997), Barb Mucha (1996), Liselotte Neumann (1998), Dottie Pepper (1992), Val Skinner (1994) and Rachel Teske (1999).
Rounding out the field will be 13-year-old Michelle Wie, the sensational teen from Hawaii who will be competing in her fourth LPGA event. The six-foot eighth-grader set a few heads bobbing herself at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last month, earning a spot in the final pairing and eventually finishing tied for ninth, becoming the youngest player to make the cut in an LPGA event in the process.
Wie is competing in the event as a sponsor exemption, joining Linda Hunt, a Class A member of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional division from nearby Newnan, Ga. Hunt also competed on the LPGA Tour for eight years, most recently in 1993.
Players, staff and fans alike are hoping the weather for this years Chick-fil-A will be better than 2002. Last years event was reduced to 36 holes due to inclement weather and unplayable conditions.
Eagles Landing Country Club received more than 2.5 inches of rain during the first and second rounds, and play was suspended a total of three times over the course of the two days. Despite the soggy conditions, an eagle landed at just the right time for Inkster during the final round.
Down two shots to Kelly Robbins, the LPGA Tour Hall of Famer sank a 10-foot eagle putt on the final hole for a 6-under-par 66 and 12-under-par total to top fellow Robbins by two strokes and earn her 27th career LPGA Tour win. It was a thrilling finish, to say the least. Inksters eagle came just minutes before playing partner Robbins tapped in a one-foot eagle putt of her own to finish at 134 (-10). Laura Diaz birdied two of the final four holes to make it an American sweep among the top three spots after a final round 69 put her at 135 (-9) and in third.
Statistical Preview of the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship