Inkster, 62, grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., where she learned the game at Pasatiempo Golf Club, practicing before and after school every day and eventually taking a job working in the golf shop. Inkster’s hard work resulted in a prolific amateur career that included four years of All-American honors at San Jose State University, a school-record 17 career wins, three straight U.S. Women’s Amateur titles (1980-82), the 1981 California Amateur trophy and a victory as part of the United States team in the 1982 Curtis Cup. Inkster was the top-ranked women’s amateur golfer in 1981 and ‘82.
Inkster made a seamless transition to the LPGA Tour in 1983, winning her first tournament in only her fifth start. She became the first LPGA rookie to win two major championships in one season, the 1984 Nabisco Dinah Shore and the du Maurier Classic. Inkster’s three wins led to being chosen as LPGA Rookie of the Year and thrust the young star into the spotlight of women’s golf.
Inkster won a total of 12 tournaments in the 1980s, including her third major and second Dinah Shore title in 1989.
The next decade for Inkster was one of transition and continued success. She and her husband became parents in 1990 with the birth of their first daughter Hayley. Their second daughter Cori was born in 1994. Inkster played a limited LPGA schedule those two seasons but still recorded nine wins in the 1990s, with five coming in 1999. That banner season included two major championships, the U.S. Women’s Open and McDonald’s LPGA Golf Championship, completing the LPGA career grand slam. Only six players in LPGA history have accomplished the feat: Inkster, Pat Bradley, 2014 Memorial Tournament Honoree Annika Sorenstam, 2007 Memorial Tournament Honoree Louise Suggs, Karrie Webb, and 1994 Memorial Tournament Honoree Mickey Wright.
Inkster is among the most successful American players in Solheim Cup history. She competed in her first Solheim Cup in 1992 and then again in 1998, experiencing her first victory as a member of the U.S. team. She would go on to make 11 total Solheim Cup appearances, three as the U.S. captain. None was more memorable than her first stint in the captain’s seat in 2015 when Team USA mounted the largest come-from-behind victory in Solheim Cup history for the Americans’ first win since 2009.
Inkster, a member of the Memorial Tournament Captains Club, tallied 31 career LPGA Tour victories. After turning 45, she went on to win four times on the LPGA Legends Tour. In 2000, Inkster was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“Juli has established herself not only as one of golf history’s great players, but as one of the great ambassadors and stewards of the game,” Nicklaus said. “Always leading with her infectious personality and enthusiasm, Juli has impacted the game through her play and captaincy in the Solheim Cup, as well as through her valuable input as a member of the Captains Club for the Memorial Tournament. Juli also cares deeply about the future of the game, especially for women. That is exemplified in the Juli Inkster Award presented by Workday, which recognizes the top Division I women’s collegiate golfer in her final year of eligibility.”