LPGA Hall-of-Famer Juli Inkster will play in the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic for the first time since 1998, tournament chairman Judd Silverman said yesterday.
Inkster has played in the Farr eight times with three top-20 finishes, the best being a tie for seventh in '98.
Her return to Highland Meadows Golf Club may have been orchestrated by an LPGA Tour rule that mandates players compete in every tour event at least once every four years.
This is the fourth year that the rule has existed and, thus, the first time it would have been tested. In the event of a violation, Silverman said the LPGA commissioner could impose a financial penalty that can amount to the first-place prize in a tournament. In the case of the Farr, that would be $180,000.
Inkster and Annika Sorenstam are the only players who would be in violation of the 1-in-4 rule were they to skip the 2006 Farr Classic.
Inkster's name is on the Farr's commitment sheet. Sorenstam has not yet signed her name to the list, but her agent has assured Silverman she will be playing and the tournament has already announced her expected participation.
Inkster, 45, posted her 31st career victory in mid-March at the Safeway Classic in Arizona. That total includes seven major championships, the most recent the 2002 U.S. Women's Open.
"We're happy she's coming back to our tournament because Juli is simply one of the greatest women's golfers ever," Silverman said.
"What impresses me most is the longevity of her success. She's playing as well now in her mid-40s as she was in her 20s and early 30s. She's still contending in majors, winning tournaments, and has been on the last five Solheim Cup teams."
Inkster is currently fifth on the 2006 money list with nearly $540,000. That early-season success bumped her over the $10 million mark in career earnings.
- Dave Hackenberg