Dirty Danc­ing


Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - Contents 01/18 - WITH GUY YOCOM

Juli Inkster dishes on the Sol­heim Cup, pangs from Rwanda and why rules break­ers need to be stopped – now.

it’s the 1998 sol­heim cup, and I’m play­ing with Dot­tie Pep­per in the open­ing al­ter­nate-shot match against Laura Davies and Tr­ish John­son. In team events, Dot­tie played with a pas­sion that came across as Dot­tie against the world. The golf course and her op­po­nents were fair game, and on this day I’m not so sure she even liked me. On the first hole, Dot­tie hits first and finds the fair­way. Laura then cranks one as only Laura can, a blast that goes 60 yards past Dot­tie. This re­ally an­noys Dot­tie. She marches off the tee with all kinds of de­fi­ance. When we get to our ball, I can’t help but nee­dle her. I said, “Sorry to ask, but did you even take off the head­cover for this puny thing?” Oh, did she get mad. She barks, “What do you mean? It’s right down the mid­dle! Just hit it on the green!” I cracked up laugh­ing. We won the hole and the match, which is a good thing. If we’d lost, Dot­tie might still be mad at me.

what it came down to was, Dot­tie hated los­ing. A lot of good play­ers are like that, though they don’t al­ways show it. I won seven ma­jors and 31 tour­na­ments on the LPGA Tour, and I don’t think there was one where the thrill wasn’t gone by the mid­dle of the day on Mon­day. Los­ing, though, is dif­fer­ent. The tough losses stayed with me, some­times for­ever.

the best ex­am­ple of that is the 1992 U.S. Women’s Open at Oak­mont. With two holes to play, I led Patty Shee­han by two. She birdied the 17th hole, which cut my lead to one. On 18, I drove it right down the mid­dle, and Patty drove into the rough. We had just come out of a rain de­lay, and not only was the rough tall, it was wet. But then Patty called over a rules of­fi­cial. I was a good dis­tance away and watched the of­fi­cial give Patty a drop that put her in the fair­way. She’d been granted relief from ca­sual wa­ter, which didn’t strike me as pos­si­ble be­cause she was on a sides­lope and any wa­ter would have flowed away. I don’t mind say­ing that rules of­fi­cials in that pe­riod were weak. They were too per­mis­sive. Years later, that of­fi­cial told me that if she had it to do over, she wouldn’t have granted relief. Patty hit a great shot onto the green and made birdie to my par, and we tied. In the 18-hole play­off the next day, she beat me by two. I still think about it. It still burns me up.

i’ll be hon­est: If the Sol­heim Cup were the Amer­i­cans against an In­ter­na­tional side, they’d slaugh­ter us. Of course they’d beat the Euro­peans eas­ily, too. An A team of Asian play­ers alone would trounce ei­ther team, their B team would win hand­ily, and their C team would be very com­pet­i­tive. So what do we do about that? Al­though I think the Sol­heim Cup should be left alone, the Pres­i­dents Cup is a dif­fer­ent story. I’d love to see a 12-player, mixed-team, round-robin event. It would be no-brainer, must-watch TV. Who wouldn’t watch Jor­dan Spi­eth and Lexi Thomp­son play­ing an in­tense al­ter­nate shot against Ja­son Day and Ly­dia Ko?

we’ve got to get the mixedteam events back. I played in a lot of the old JCPen­ney Clas­sics with Tom Purtzer and won one with him, in 1986. Tom has this in­cred­i­bly rhyth­mic swing that rubs off on you. The trou­ble was, the JCPen­ney was al­ways played in De­cem­ber. By the time Jan­uary and the new sea­son rolled around, the good rhythm I got from watch­ing him had worn off. I was like, “Where are you when I need you?”

cristie kerr and An­gela Stan­ford are dif­fer­ent peo­ple. They never got along par­tic­u­larly well. At the last Sol­heim Cup, an in­ter­est­ing thing hap­pened. On the bus, Cristie got up and asked for ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion. She’d cho­sen one of her in­spi­ra­tional quotes she wanted ev­ery­one to hear. I can’t re­mem­ber it—my crappy mem­ory—but it was a lit­tle bit out there. But then An­gela got up and ex­plained her in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what the quote meant.

Cristie lis­tened in­tently, and next thing you know, she and An­gela are hang­ing out, talk­ing, still dif­fer­ent peo­ple but to­tally bond­ing, and bet­ter off for it. Team golf—team sports in gen­eral—strips off the ar­mor. It brings out an em­pa­thy that just isn’t there when you’re play­ing in­di­vid­u­ally. more than ever, there’s a Venus-Mars dif­fer­ence between how men and women play golf. Women are more cau­tious be­cause hit­ting into a fair­way bunker with a high lip is a big­ger prob­lem than for Dustin John­son. We’re more care­ful, swing in a more con­trolled way. A cou­ple of months ago, I played with Tony Finau in the Beren­berg Gary Player In­vi­ta­tional in New York. Some of his drives flew so far they al­most went out of sight, but they weren’t very straight. I think he hit two fair­ways. I teased Tony: “You’re in the junk again, buddy.” With this big smile he said, “If I have a swing, I have a shot.” And it was true. Tall rough, trees he had to bend the ball around, it didn’t mat­ter. He just tore the ball onto the green from ev­ery­where. If I drove it into the places Tony did that day, I’d shoot a mil­lion. It’s not easy be­ing from Venus. there are ex­cep­tions to ev­ery rule. Lexi Thomp­son and Suzann Pet­tersen are more Mars­like. I’ve seen Lexi take div­ots a foot long, and she swings with a vi­o­lence that tells you she doesn’t mind break­ing things. She has a kick-ass “hit” men­tal­ity that is rare for a woman. Suzann has that, too. They’re dif­fer­ent from, say, Ariya Ju­tanu­garn, who hits the ball just as far, but with­out the vi­o­lence. in 2007, Betsy King put to­gether a mis­sion trip to Rwanda un­der the char­ity she founded called Golf Fore Africa. The goal was to raise aware­ness of the poverty and health is­sues the Rwan­dan peo­ple face ev­ery day, and to help where we could. Ten of us made the trip, in­clud­ing my daugh­ters, Hay­ley and Cori, who at the time were 17 and 13. We were there for 10 days, and what we saw changed our per­spec­tive on how for­tu­nate we are to live in Amer­ica, and the im­por­tance of try­ing to give back. We saw chil­dren who didn’t just ad­mire the clean wa­ter in our bot­tles, they ad­mired the bot­tles. The peo­ple there walk for miles just to re­trieve clean drink­ing wa­ter. Lit­tle things, like our pass­ing out candy, meant the world to them. What made the big­gest im­pres­sion on me—Hay­ley and Cori, too, I think—was the hap­pi­ness of the chil­dren. How they seemed to be so con­tent while hav­ing so lit­tle. It was up­lift­ing and heart­break­ing at the same time. My daugh­ters and I came back as slightly dif­fer­ent peo­ple. When­ever I see a half­full wa­ter bot­tle, I feel a slight pang. I think about Rwanda. golf is unique among all sports for what it does for char­ity on an al­most daily ba­sis. There are the big LPGA Tour and PGA Tour events, which over the years have con­trib­uted hundreds of millions of dollars. But then there are the thou­sands of smaller golf tour­na­ments at ev­ery­day clubs ev­ery week. The sum of it has to be in­cred­i­ble. I think it’s hu­man na­ture to won­der how you can help. Just buy­ing a ticket to a tour event does some­thing, but you might con­sider vol­un­teer­ing at a tour event, or man­ning the sign-up ta­ble at one of those small Mon­day tour­na­ments. Or buy­ing a cou­ple of ex­tra raf­fle tick­ets. Or best, mak­ing a do­na­tion at a web­site such as golf­fore­africa.org. I’ve al­ways thought it’s cool how when you give some­thing through golf, the game re­pays you by mak­ing you feel good in­side. The feel­ing is tax-free, too. an­nika soren­stam has been re­tired for go­ing on 10 years now, so for those who didn’t see her, I’ll tell you what her golf was like. She was the only player who, when she hit, your eyes im­me­di­ately darted to a lit­tle win­dow above the flag­stick. That’s rare for any­one, man or woman. Her ball flight was dead straight, which is also very rare be­cause ev­ery player tends to fa­vor a fade or draw. Her iron shots had no flut­ter to them, never seemed to drift or fall off. When An­nika was on, play­ing against her could be very dis­cour­ag­ing. You felt this pres­sure to make birdies be­cause you knew she wasn’t go­ing to miss shots. the best ball-striker I saw in my ca­reer, though, was Kar­rie Webb. At her best, when she hit, the sound of the club meet­ing the ball was unique. It was the kind of sound that makes se­ri­ous golfers turn their heads. Watch­ing her hit balls, a madeup word came to mind: “flush­ness.” Her ball would re­ally hiss when it took off and pen­e­trated the air so well. my ad­vice to young play­ers: Stop stretch­ing so much. Some­thing tells me this con­stant stretch­ing in the gym to elon­gate mus­cles and be­come more flex­i­ble is caus­ing in­juries rather than pre­vent­ing them. I don’t think the body is de­signed for mus­cles to be stretched that far. It gives play­ers a false sense they can push the en­ve­lope, swing longer and harder. I have no proof, ex­cept that I never

stretched ex­cept dur­ing my nor­mal warm-up. In 35 years, I’ve had only one in­jury, a torn ten­don in my right el­bow. i didn’t take up golf un­til I was 15. My dad, Jack Simp­son, was a hack golfer but knew enough to show me a sound in­ter­lock­ing grip, and I sort of took it from there. I played con­stantly, be­fore and af­ter school, then went to bas­ket­ball prac­tice. I was just a jock, some­one who was good at any game with a ball. In sum­mer, I would lap Pasatiempo all day long. I played a lot with Grant Rogers, who now is the di­rec­tor of in­struc­tion at Ban­don Dunes. He gave me a lot of lit­tle tips. I was a good ath­lete and got good at golf very fast. I made the boys’ high school var­sity team, then earned a schol­ar­ship to San Jose State. Be­gin­ning in 1980, I won three straight U.S. Women’s Am­a­teurs. Then in 1984, my first full sea­son on the LPGA Tour, I won two ma­jors. Look­ing back, I just ex­pected to win, and it hap­pened. I don’t think I knew how hard golf could be. like i say, i worked at it. Pasatiempo didn’t have a very good prac­tice range, but on days I didn’t play, I’d hit balls lit­er­ally all day long. I’d prac­tice in the morn­ing, get some­thing to eat, then, in the af­ter­noon, the real work be­gan. I’d go onto the range with a tran­sis­tor ra­dio—which I still have, by the way—tune to the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants game and hit balls from the pre-game show un­til it went off the air. I just loved be­ing by my­self, fig­ur­ing out my swing and groov­ing it. Al­ways try­ing to get bet­ter. as kids, we’d go into the canyons at Pasatiempo and look for golf balls. It was an easy walk from our home near the 14th hole, and that’s how we made spend­ing money. We’d sort the balls, put them in egg car­tons, set up a lemon­ade stand and po­si­tion our­selves so golfers would run into us. I still re­mem­ber what we charged for them. A new Titleist, Maxfli or Ho­gan bal­ata with no cuts, 35 cents. A new Top-Flite or Moli­tor—they were real durable—25 cents. A good Golden Ram, Fly­ing Lady, Kro-Flite or nicer brands, but scuffed, 15 cents. think­ing more on my dad, he was this amaz­ing ath­lete. I’d al­ways taken for granted how ef­fort­lessly he’d field balls when he coached my broth­ers at Lit­tle League, how he taught kids how to hit with these in­cred­i­ble demon­stra­tions. Just last year, my mom brought out a scrap­book and showed me his



his­tory. It was in­cred­i­ble. He’d been a star quar­ter­back at Van Nuys High School, which was a huge school and pro­ducer of tremen­dous ath­letes, in­clud­ing Don Drys­dale, who got to the Base­ball Hall of Fame. My dad loved base­ball and reached Triple-A in the Cincin­nati Reds or­ga­ni­za­tion. He played short­stop and had a ton of prom­ise but was de­railed by pneu­mo­nia and then an in­jury. The moral of that is, talk to your par­ents. Learn their his­to­ries. You might be amazed what you find out. there are movies we all wish we were char­ac­ters in, right? Noth­ing could be bet­ter than to be Jen­nifer Grey in “Dirty Danc­ing.” To be twirled around in a dance scene by Pa­trick Swayze, I mean, come on. I still watch that movie. I still get up and dance, with zero em­bar­rass­ment. There’s a line from the char­ac­ter Johnny that ap­plies to how I’ve run my whole life: “No­body puts Baby in a cor­ner.” like most tour­na­ments these days, the KPMG Women’s PGA Cham­pi­onship pro­vides ev­ery thing, in­clud­ing the lit­tle things like snacks, wa­ter and a va­ri­ety of drinks on ev­ery tee. In 2015, I was walk­ing down the se­cond hole with a young player—can’t re­mem­ber who it was; that’s how bad my mem­ory is get­ting—and she says. “What did you do be­fore there was bot­tled wa­ter?” I told her how in the early 1980s they’d take a hose and fill 18 in­su­lated wa­ter cool­ers and set them on the tee next to a stack of Dixie Cups. “Hose wa­ter?” she said. “Eww.” I told her how we used ro­tary phones to call and get our tee times. The crummy range balls, how greens were slow and cov­ered with ball marks. Then I told her about per­sim­mon woods and bal­ata balls. I said, “But you know, in a lot of ways it was bet­ter.” She looked at me like I was a thou­sand years old. i still feel the lpga tour de­serves more at­ten­tion than it’s get­ting. There are sev­eral rea­sons, start­ing with the me­dia. Why was the Golf Chan­nel not broad­cast­ing the Sol­heim Cup all week the way it was at the Pres­i­dents Cup? Why aren’t more women on the cov­ers of Golf Di­gest? I also have a hunch that male CEOs are more in­clined to want to tell their bud­dies they played in a proam with Jor­dan Spi­eth than with, say, Juli Inkster. I think, too, that if more of them had daugh­ters who were fans of the LPGA, it would ac­tu­ally re­sult in more tour­na­ments on our tour get­ting spon­sor­ships. Last, PGA Tour play­ers aren’t very quick to pro­mote the women’s game. They’re wrapped up in their own prod­uct, which is un­der­stand­able, ex­cept that it isn’t good for the over­all health of the game. When the me­dia, CEOs and men’s tour play­ers be­gin tak­ing a longer view, that’s when you’ll see the LPGA Tour ex­plode. on the lpga tour, there’s what we call “white line” yardage. Say the course is listed at 6,600 yards. That comes from an ac­tual white line marked on the tees. Dur­ing the tour­na­ment, the tees will be at the white line or a lit­tle ahead, so the dis­tance is shorter than 6,600 yards. Men’s tour, same thing—the daily yardage is less than the 7,500 yards mea­sured from the tips. My feel­ing is, the LPGA should play even far­ther for­ward from the white lines, es­pe­cially on the par 5s. You’ve prob­a­bly no­ticed that men play very few three-shot par 5s. They’re nearly all reach­able in two. They make a ton of ea­gles, which is thrilling for their fans. Mean­while, the LPGA seems hung up on the idea of three­shot par 5s. One of­fi­cial told me, “If the par 5s are reach­able in two, the group in the fair­way has to wait.” I’m not sure I get that, be­cause play­ing three shots at a nor­mal pace would seem to take longer than two. Any­thing the LPGA of­fi­cials can do to make it more fun to watch, they should go for it. there’s a trend on the pro tours of play­ers not tak­ing the Rules of Golf as se­ri­ously as they should. I’m talk­ing about ob­vi­ous fudg­ing on plac­ing and re­plac­ing the ball; tak­ing more than a club-length when lift, clean and place is in ef­fect. I saw a so-called prac­tice swing awhile back that was un­mis­tak­ably a whiff. There’s never an ex­cuse for not putting the in­tegrity of the game first. The rules are com­pli­cated, I get that. But they are sa­cred. There are some at­ti­tudes out there that need to change, right now. one day a few years ago I asked my cad­die for my ball, and he said, “It’s in your hand.” I asked for my glove, and he said, “You’re wear­ing it.” I no­ticed I usu­ally was last to get to the next tee, when I used to be first. My fo­cus, which al­ways was stronger than my ball-strik­ing, short game and putting, had started to de­te­ri­o­rate. There was men­tal scar tis­sue and bad mojo. I’d played the same cour­ses for years and started think­ing about what could hap­pen if I missed that slick, down­hill three-footer. I couldn’t get that stuff out of my head. That’s when I de­cided to cut back to about 10 tour­na­ments a year. But I’m not done. I’m 57, but if ev­ery­thing went right, who’s to say I couldn’t win?


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