News & ToursMarch 25, 2008

Lessons From LPGA's 'Rwanda Six'

SCOTTSDALE -- Most of the "Rwanda Six"--the group of LPGA pros who traveled to the tiny African nation on a humanitarian mission involving AIDS orphans--had a reunion Monday at Desert Highland Golf Club in a fund-raising clinic for Golf Fore Africa, the charity started by Hall-of-Famer Betsy King. King was joined at the clinic by Juli Inkster, Reilley Rankin, Katherine Hull and teaching pro Wendy Poscillico--all of whom went to Rwanda last October--as well as by Pat Hurst and Angela Stanford. Renee Powell, who also made the trip to Rwanda, was unable to attend because of recent knee surgery.

As always, Inkster steals the show when handed a live microphone. When introduced as a member of the 2007 U.S. Solheim Cup team she was quick to add: "The winning U.S. Solheim Cup team," coating the word winning with a ton of emphasis. Asked about the spirit of the competition, in which the Americans won on the road for just the second time, Inkster said: "It's not how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose. That was our team-room motto."

When asked during a question-and-answer session about how she gets back on track when things go awry during a round, Inkster said she takes out an 8-iron and tries to make small swings to get her rhythm back. Then she said, "The key to getting back on track is to put the bad things that have just happened out of your mind. No one was better at that than Nancy Lopez. But we just think Nancy didn't remember the past."

Inkster had a fascinating explanation of her warm-up routine that displayed how individual a golf game is. "I'm a feel player," Inkster said. "My swing is based on tempo and timing. So I hit a lot of short irons in my warm-up. I may only hit two or three drivers. I figure if I set my timing with my short irons the rest will follow. Also, the wedges are your scoring clubs, don't ever forget that."

Hurst is another feel player and when she was asked if she plays a fade or a draw she answered, "It depends on the day. I just play whatever I have that day." Hull also gave a great tip when she talked about laying up to a comfortable distance on par-5 holes you can't reach in two. "Most club players just bang away on the second shot and leave an awkward distance for their third shot. My sand wedge is my 85-yard club. I love that distance and that's what I lay up to if I can't get there in two."

Asked, on a scale of 1 to 10 how nervous they would be in certain situations, Inkster shouted out "zero" when a practice round was thrown out. Hurst, Stanford, King and Inkster have played in the Solheim Cup and agree it's the most nervous they've ever been. Then Inkster was asked how nervous she'd be on the final hole of the U.S. Women's Open if she was paired with Annika Sorenstam and they were tied for the lead. Always the competitor, Inkster stared as if she were imagining the situation and said, "I'd be nervous." Then, after a perfectly timed pause, she added, "But I'd bring her down."

Among those watching the clinic was Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger who'll be heading to Wake Forest in the fall on a golf scholarship. In less than a year of existence, Golf Fore Africa has raised more than $200,000 to help the village of Mudasomwa in Rwanda.

--Ron Sirak

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