Juli Inkster halved her final Solheim Cup match.
Darren Carroll/SI
Monday, August 24, 2009

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (AP) — Already in trouble on the 18th hole, Juli Inkster leaned so far to the side that she fell as she watched her approach sail toward the pin.

The ball landed a few feet from the cup. The hole was already a lost one, though.

Even so, she walked off the green to hugs and high fives Sunday and then gave word that this was her final Solheim Cup appearance for the U.S. team.

``I'm not doing a Brett Favre,'' she said after her round. ``It is. I want to come out and watch. It feels great with all the young talent. I had a great time.''

The revelation was not a surprise considering she's 49 and this event rolls around every two years. Nor was it a shocker when she said she plans to play a reduced schedule next year.

So assuming she doesn't change her mind, her eighth Solheim appearance was her final one. And as endings go, it was not bad.

The U.S. team beat the Europeans, and Inkster set the American record for Solheim points over the weekend, moving ahead of assistant U.S. captain Meg Mallon. And after struggling on Saturday, she rallied from 2-down through 13 holes in Sunday's singles play for a halve against Gwladys Nocera. She was in position for the full point at 1-up going into the 18th but clipped a tree.

``I had kind of a downhill lie and I just came up out of it a little bit,'' Inkster said.

That little downer aside, she was on an emotional high afterward.

``She'll be missed by the American team, that's for sure,'' said Europe's Laura Davies, who at 45 isn't sure she'll play in another Solheim Cup. ``She's an inspirational leader. They all love her, doesn't matter what their age.''

A Hall of Fame career that includes 31 tour wins and seven majors is winding down, but Inkster showed she still has some game over the weekend. Captain Beth Daniel didn't hesitate to make her a captain's pick, and Inkster backed it up with some shots that brought back memories of her prime.

Her competitive nature showed up on Friday, when she and Paula Creamer teamed for a 2-and-1 win in the afternoon foursome over Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie. It was there again on Sunday, when she wiped out Nocera's lead in the latter stages.

Inkster's rally started on the par-4 No. 14, when her approach settled about 8 feet from the cup to set up a birdie. She pumped her right arm as the ball fell in, and continued her rally over the next three holes. She matched birdies with Nocera on the par-5 15th, then birdied the par-3 16th to pull even before taking the lead on 17.

``It's great,'' Inkster said. ``I don't have anything to hang my head at. I played really well today. She played great today. I think we deserved a half there.''

And now, Inkster's looking ahead.

That American points record she set? She doesn't expect it to last.

Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie are good candidates to break it, and Inkster hopes to be there when it happens. She vowed never to miss a Solheim Cup, whether she's playing or serving in an official capacity, and Inkster made it clear she would love to be a captain.

Yet teammates and Daniel had a hard time believing she's finished playing.

``Who says she's done?'' Daniel asked?

``I am signing off,'' Inkster responded.

To that, Daniel said: ``I don't believe that.''

And when the subject came up again, Daniel said, ``Are we doing a farewell tour? Brett Favre right here.''

But Inkster insisted this was it for Solheim play

She never expected to last this long, anyway. When she joined the LPGA tour in 1983, she figured it would be for about five years. Even when she won the 1999 U.S. Open, she insisted she was ready to cut back.

``My goal right now is to play on the Solheim Cup in 2000,'' Inkster said at the time. ``After that ... I just really foresee myself playing 10 to 12 tournaments a year. I'm going to have a first-grader and a fifth-grader, and it's just getting harder and harder to take them out.''

This time, she insists she's ready for a lighter schedule.

``It was a great way to go out,'' Inkster said. ``I will do whatever they want for me to do next year, help them out, be a little runner or whatever they want me to do. But I'm going to watch these girls play. As long as I get a VIP pass, I'm good.''

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