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Murphy’s Law

It’s Been a Long Time Coming W

hen the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open comes to CordeValle in early July, there will be no shortage of what makes

Northern California such a special place—pristine landscapes, dynamite weather, gentle rolling topography and of course no ridiculous Midwest/ East Coast summer lightning storms. Certainly a lot of positives. There’s only one negative:

CordeValle’s Open will be the 71st U.S. Women’s national championship, but only the third ever in the great state of California, and the first since Del Paso Country Club in 1982. Where ya been, USGA? That fact is so perplexing, I picked

up the phone and called the god- mother of NorCal women’s golf to ask her: It’s been so long since the national championship came our way, bet you can’t wait to play in the ultimate event within an hour of your own home, right? “No, I’m not going to play it, I’m

going to work it,” said Juli Inkster, the World Golf Hall of Famer, Los Altos resident and two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion, who has only played 34 of these things. “It’s fine. I’ve played in a ton of U.S. Opens. I love it, but I’m fine working it.” Thanks a lot, USGA. You took so

long to come back to a region that has produced so much talent—Inkster, Paula Creamer, Patty Sheehan, Pat Hurst, Christina Kim and Dorothy Delasin, to name a few—that the queen of them all has already hung up her U.S. Open spikes. Inkster said the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, at Pinehurst, was her last. Her new life is as a top golf analyst

for FOX, which owns the rights to the USGA championships. So when

72 / NCGA.ORG / SPRING 2016

the next women’s national champion is crowned July 10 in the hills of San Martin, Inkster will be holding a microphone, not a putter. “I thought commentating, I would

miss playing,” she said. “But I’m still getting to play some, and I get to work the event, so it’s the best of both worlds. It’s a lot between the actual commentating, doing stats and all the additional stuff that goes with it. It’s kind of different, but I like it. “It’s also something I’m trying to get better at.”

CordeValle isn’t a bomber’s

paradise, it requires a surgeon’s eye, not a sledgehammer.

But what about the temptation

for one last snare at the brass ring, à la 59-year-old Tom Watson at Turnberry? “I’m 55, I’m not 25,” Inkster said with a laugh. “I played 32, 33 U.S. Opens? (Actually 34, I checked!). I played a lot of great U.S. Open courses. I won two, lost in a playoff in another. I don’t really miss the prac- tice rounds and everything that comes with playing in an Open. So it’ll be me in the booth, trying not to make any blunders.” Time marches on, the seasons

turn, and Inkster, who was a 22-year- old amateur at Del Paso CC when Janet Alex was the surprise winner over Beth Daniel, now watches the new twenty somethings—and teens, like world No. 1 Lydia Ko—take their turn in the sun. “CordeValle will show well. It’s

kind of spread out and a tough golf course to walk, but I think the girls will like it.”

Some of America’s best players

have already seen CordeValle up close, thanks to Inkster. As Solheim Cup captain, she took her U.S. team on a retreat to the golf course last year to give them a sneak peek at an Open venue, enjoy the property and do some team bonding. “They got a taste of what the course is like,” said Inkster. “We did a dinner, we hung out. They treated us great. The team liked the golf course, the rolling hills. I didn’t hear one negative.” OK, then, FOX golf analyst,

which of your players fits the bill to hoist the national championship come Sunday afternoon? Inkster paid tribute to the power of a young Lexi Thompson, who’s able to eat up par-5s. But CordeValle isn’t a bomber’s paradise, it’s a tricky, windy track with undulating greens. It requires a surgeon’s eye, not a sledgehammer. “I think it sets up great for Stacy

Lewis,” said Inkster of the 31-year- old University of Arkansas product, and two-time major winner. “She has a very nice touch around the greens and a great short game. She’s due for a U.S. Open. She’s been close.” Either way, it’s a welcome return

to California for the women’s national title. It’s been too long. Hopefully, this year’s event and the 2021 cham- pionship at The Olympic Club will whet the USGA’s appetite for more of our fair terrain. “Maybe one year,” Inkster said,

always going for the flagstick, “we’ll get to Pebble Beach.”

BRIAN MURPHY hosts the KNBR morning show “Murph and Mac” and was the San Francisco Chronicle’s golf writer from 2001-04.

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