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Inkster needs little labor for a 65 at British Open

Mother of two teens leads by one shot at 48. Retiring Sorenstam struggles to shoot par.

August 01, 2008|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

SUNNINGDALE, England -- As retold already at the Ricoh Women's British Open, some very hardy souls through the years have made simultaneous attempts at competitive golf and motherhood, two of the most maddening pursuits known to humanity.

That old but stirring theme resurfaced Thursday when Juli Inkster, 48, mother of an 18-year-old and a 14-year-old, shot a 65 for the first-round lead at the windless, toothless Sunningdale Golf Club, then reckoned she's just configured differently from the retiring Annika Sorenstam.

Among reasons for deserting the game after this season at just 37, Sorenstam includes her yearn to have children, a wish she finds unattainable while fettered with, say, driving-range duty.

"I don't think Annika could come out here and finish, you know, 15th or 12th on the money list and live with herself," Inkster said. "Me, I'm OK with that."

For illumination, Inkster remembered how her second daughter, Cori, once had an ear infection and a 104-degree fever that required an all-night, emergency-room visit during the tournament in Portland, Ore. The golfer left the emergency room at 7:30 a.m. for a tee time at 9:20.

"I don't even know what I shot," Inkster said. "I was in a fog. I probably played well because I wasn't even thinking. You know what's funny about the whole thing is the emergency-room doctor that helped me out . . . he got off at 9 right after his shift and came out and walked the whole 18 with me. That was pretty cool. I said, 'Well, we'll stay up together.' "

As Inkster held a one-shot lead over a seven-player logjam, a player two shots behind treads a different state of motherhood.

The England-raised, Orlando-based, 32nd-ranked Karen Stupples, 35, the British Open champion on this very course in 2004, had her son Logan 15 months ago and deems Inkster a role model. Stupples hopes to play on the tour till she's 48, has forgotten any fleeting designs on No. 1 and says of life, "It revolves around him. It's not about me anymore."

She also says that "eight pounds and five ounces doesn't sound necessarily big, but it felt big," and so Stupples has strained to restore her hips, which were "a bit stuck, to be perfectly honest. They don't want to move . . . ," such that at one point her swing instructor Chip Koehlke said, "I don't think we can have changes until we can free your hips up to let them move."

Yet still, Stupples shot 67, feeling familiar vibes from her title course, while the 10-time major winner Sorenstam shot an uneven, even-par 72, chafed at her inconsistency and said, "I don't really know what to do."

Defending champion Lorena Ochoa shot a 68.

And Inkster, two hours after her ray-of-light 65 in her trying golf year, still whacked shot after driving-range shot, implementing a swing adjustment gleaned from Karrie Webb's instructor, Ian Triggs.

In this process, the oldest player in the Women's British Open looked serially flustered, but at least her hips have had 14 years to recover and her worldly daughters have just about grown up.

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