Birthday profile: Juli Inkster

Juli Inkster will make history before a ball is even struck at Gleneagles this September when she captains Team USA for a third consecutive Solheim Cup.

No American has been named skipper for the biennial transatlantic contest three times before, with Kathy Whitworth, Judy Rankin and Patty Sheehan all holding the honour twice.

But Inkster has proven herself to be a dependable presence at the helm, guiding the United States to back-to-back victories in Germany in 2015 and Des Moines in 2017.

She will now look to match America’s longest winning streak in a Solheim Cup by securing a hat-trick of victories when she leads her troops into battle against Catriona Matthew’s Europe.

Inkster has also racked up the points during her Solheim Cup playing career and to celebrate her 59th birthday, here’s a look at her best moments as a player and captain over the years.

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INKSTER MAKES HER MARK

It was in Scotland where Inkster played her first Solheim Cup in 1992, the seven-time major champion picking up 1.5 points at Dalmahoy Country Club in Edinburgh.

She halved her opening foursomes match alongside Patty Sheehan, before losing her fourballs contest alongside the same partner against Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas.

Inkster then got her revenge over Nicholas in the singles, prevailing 3&2 against her opponent to gain one of only three points for her side on Sunday to help America seal a 11.5-6.5 triumph.

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But while Inkster made an impressive start to her Solheim Cup journey, it was her second appearance in 1998 that really marked her out as a valuable asset to her country.

Six years after making her debut, Inkster returned in the stars and stripes in Ohio and enjoyed a dream start as she and Dottie Pepper won their Friday morning foursomes match.

Another point followed in the Saturday foursomes, alongside Pepper once again, before joining up with Meg Mallon for her third and final victory of the weekend in the afternoon fourballs.

FORMIDABLE SINGLES RECORD

One area where Inkster has excelled as a Team USA player more than any other in the Solheim Cup over the years has been in the pressure cooker environment of the Sunday singles.

Her defeat to Helen Alfredsson at the conclusion to her otherwise successful second appearance in 1998 proved to be the only time she ever tasted defeat in one-on-one action.

Inkster lost the fourballs contest two years later at Loch Lomond, while she picked up only half a point in her two foursomes matches, but she rose to the occasion in the singles again.

In one of her finest performances, Inkster defeated Annika Sörenstam 5&4 to claim her first full point of the week – although it was not enough to rescue overall victory for America.

She also beat Raquel Carriedo-Tomás in emphatic fashion at Interlachen County Club in 2002 as the USA reclaimed the trophy, before dispatching Carin Koch 5&4 on Swedish soil in 2003.

Further victories followed in the singles in 2005 and 2007 – the latter completing a three-point haul – before halved matches in 2009 and 2011 took her overall points total to 18.5.

THE RISE OF CAPTAIN AMERICA

Having been assistant captain as well as a player in 2011, it was a natural progression for Inkster to take on the role of American captain and she made her bow in 2015.

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Her first exposure to leadership did not go to plan initially, though, with Europe building a 10-6 advantage after the opening two days of play at St Leon-Rot in Baden-Württemberg.

But against all the odds, Inkster’s charges pulled off a miraculous recovery, winning seven of the last eight matches to win back the Solheim Cup by the closest margin in the competition’s history.

And her debut success meant Inkster was an obvious choice to resume her role at the helm of Team USA when they hosted the Solheim Cup at Des Moines in Iowa for the 2017 edition.

This time, Inkster’s team ensured the frayed nerves she experienced two years earlier were not repeated by opening up a 10.5-5.5 advantage going into the singles on Sunday.

She then front-loaded her line-up to prevent Europe from staging their own comeback as USA sealed a 16.5-11.5 triumph. The question now is: can she make it a hat-trick in Gleneagles?
 

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