And whom do we have here? The U.S. Women's Amateur golf champion, 1980. And again in 1981. And now—ta dah!—we give you 1982. Juli Inkster is only 22 years old and looks as if she could keep rolling along forever, relentlessly, year after year after year—or at least until she hits senior play, in which contestants must admit to being 50. There's just nobody around who can beat her. This is now official news, since the latest batch of contenders made a vigorous run at her last week in Colorado, and still Inkster emerged on Sunday evening with the title. Going in, she was only the ninth player ever to win two consecutive championships in the 81 years of this event. Coming out, she was the fifth ever and the first since Virginia Van Wie in 1934 to win the title three years in a row.
What's more impressive, or at least considerably more fun, is that Inkster beat the challengers in a dozen different ways. She destroyed them with her long game, featuring high, arcing drives powered by what she calls her Free Arm Swing (more on the amazing No Hips Free Arm in just a moment). She also demoralized them with her short game, crisp approaches and a variety of calculated curlicue putts. She beat five challengers at match play before Sunday's 36-hole final, and not a slouch among them. Indeed, they included such notables as 1973 U.S. and 1974 British Amateur champion Carol Semple, her Curtis Cup teammate, who fell 3 and 1, and former U.S. Girls', PGA and Orange Bowl Junior champ—and tournament medalist—Penny Hammel, who was a 2-and-1 victim in the quarterfinals. And on Sunday, still relentless, she delivered a 4-and-3 trouncing to Cathy Hanlon of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., another Curtis Cupper who was a surprise finalist.
All of this action came in a week of mostly pleasant days on the side of Cheyenne Mountain at around 5,200 feet or so, with Colorado Springs lying like a toy city far below. The setting was the Broadmoor South Course, and its owners are fond of noting that the "rugged beauty was not disrupted when each hole was fitted naturally into the terrain." Oh. What that really means is a layout of strangely narrow fairways that wander between thickets of impenetrable junipers, pi�ons, thistles, scrub oak, laurel and rocky outcroppings that look suspiciously like mountain lion lairs. Not only that, but the whole place is also tilted, surely more than most hillside courses, so golf balls that should land and just lie there quietly on the greens suddenly start inching off toward town. It's a sort of lushly forested fantasy world.
And somewhere high in the hills above the course—you can't see it because it's hidden so deeply in the pines—is the town zoo. Also close by, possibly just over that ridge, are the Broadmoor skeet ranges. Together, they serve to create wonderful effects: Hunched over a crucial putt, a golfer might suddenly hear an elephant snort. At other times, the dull thump of gunfire echoes hollowly back in the hills, as if the Indians had trapped somebody in a box canyon.
This isn't smart-alecky criticism. No sir. The word for all of this is refreshing. After all, you don't get such classy distractions at Pebble Beach or Augusta National. And especially appropriate about the scene—in fact, the great justice of the week—was that Juli Inkster fully emerged as a refreshing new golf personality.
Inkster, who is nicely rangy and strong at 5'8", has a faintly devilish air about her. There's just the hint of a bend in her nose so that in the right light she takes on a raffish look.
Young Fan: "When I get to be a big girl, I want to be just like' you, Juli."
Inkster: "Oh, really? May I make a suggestion? Take up tennis."
Inkster approaches practice the same way, listening to an imaginary announcer's silky voice murmuring inside her head: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, Juli Inkster steps up to face the most crucial, vital, supremely important putt of her entire career. Sixty-five feet from the cup on this tough, tricky green, fans, and the U.S. Amateur Championship rides on it. The gallery falls silent. And now...she drills it!" Well. Most of the time. Occasionally, she says, the fantasy announcer will growl, "Awwwww."
And between broadcasts—"I mean, you can't play that game all the time"—she practices with a Sony Walkman II draped over her ears. "You oughta do this sometime," she says. "Try chipping to a tape of either REO Speedwagon or Huey Lewis and the News. It does wonders for your game."