A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Trish Johnson

A Different Time

Juli Inkster looks back on the LPGA of the 1990s

“We had these FootJoy shoes back then,” Juli Inkster says with a deep, incredulous laugh. “The soles were completely wooden, and they had spikes nailed into them. They had to have weighed 110 pounds. You had to figure out a way to break them in, or else it was blister city. But we wore them! It was a different time.”

Every decade comes with its share of game-changing events, but the 1990s stand out for the LPGA. The Tour celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1990, and it heralded a time of financial growth: That same year, the Centel Classic became the first regular-season LPGA event with a $1 million purse. The Tour also expanded from a U.S.-centric operation to an international one, launching the Solheim Cup and welcoming new megastars like Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam, Australia’s Karrie Webb and South Korea’s Se Ri Pak.

It was an exciting time, and one very much reflective of the society around it. Players had CD cases full of TLC, Ace of Base and, yes, Vanilla Ice. Ram, Lynx and MacGregor equipment was common at every event. And, of course, there were the outfits.

“It was not a great time for fashion,” Inkster says with another hearty laugh.

By 1990, Inkster was part of a core of stars on Tour, along with Beth Daniel, Meg Mallon and Patty Sheehan. She had already won 13 times, including three majors. But the new decade would turn into a personal and professional roller coaster. Her first daughter, Hayley, was born in 1990. Determined to juggle family and tee times, Inkster traveled with her little one in tow and finished 73rd on the LPGA money list that year, the lowest of her career at that point. Undaunted, she had her second daughter, Cori, in 1994 and kept finding ways to make it all work. In 1999, Inkster would achieve the goal that had always escaped her.

What follows is a scrapbook of one of the women’s game’s most unforgettable eras, narrated by one of its biggest names.

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Dottie Pepper
Photo by Ken Geiger/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Dottie Pepper celebrates at the 1995 JCPenney LPGA Skins Game at Stonebriar Country Club in Frisco, Texas: At the time, we thought we all looked so cool, but looking back on the haircuts and the clothing now, it’s like, “How did we walk out of the house looking like that?” But Dottie’s hairstyle was always on point—literally. Like, very spiky. It matched her personality: “Yeah, I’m gonna take you down.”

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Juli Inkster
Photo by Ken Geiger/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Juli Inkster poses with the trophy and her daughter Hayley in 1992 after winning the JAL Big Apple Classic at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, New York: I had Hayley in 1990, and I was playing again in six weeks. We didn’t have daycare or maternity leave then, so we had to just get out there and do it. And I played like crap in ’90 and ’91. But things turned around in ’92. I finally won again, and after figuring out how to travel week to week with my family, that one felt good. I also lost two majors in playoffs that year: Dottie [Pepper] beat me at the Dinah Shore, and I lost to Patty Sheehan in the U.S. Women’s Open. But so much happened around that week at the JAL. The Big Bertha had come out the year before, and I put it in my bag for the first time at this tournament. It was such a game-changer—so easy to hit. The other thing from that week was that I had some friends connect my family with private housing for the tournament. It turned out to be Frank Mara, whose family owns the New York Giants. We became good friends and would go back every year. We still have such a great relationship; our kids are all close. And I still let them know every time my 49ers pound the Giants.

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Deborah McHaffie
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Allsport/Getty Images

Deborah McHaffie at the 1994 Nabisco Dinah Shore event at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California: Oh, Deborah McHaffie. She was tall, pretty and actually dressed way ahead of her time. Because right now that’s what younger players wear: bright colors and skintight pants and shirts. But she had a body where she could rock it. If I dressed like that, they would have kicked me off the Tour.

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Laura Davies
Photo by Jim Gund/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Laura Davies gets a kiss from Ronald McDonald after winning the 1996 LPGA Championship at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware: Hey! When I won in 1999, I didn’t get a kiss from Ronald! That’s disappointing. Maybe he was afraid of me. But that really was one of our best tournaments. DuPont was a great golf course—super old-school, with small greens. The event had a nice purse, and it felt like a major. The caddies loved it because McDonald’s sponsored the event and they had a food truck whenever they wanted. The truck was always down the right side of the 10th hole. You’d walk that hole and all you could smell was the french fries. It was such a delicious smell.

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Trish Johnson
Photo by David Cannon/Allsport

Trish Johnson of Team Europe jumps for joy during the 1992 Solheim Cup at the Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club outside of Edinburgh, Scotland: That picture is some kind of optical illusion, because Trish could never have jumped that high. That was my first Solheim Cup, and we lost that one. Kathy Whitworth was supposed to be our captain, but her mom had died the day before; she went home, so Alice Miller stepped in. Alice did a great job, but we just didn’t play very well. Man, those clothes. Europe never had a distinct color scheme like our red, white and blue, so those early years were tough for them. Just a lot of pink, purple and what looks like…brown? They were all over the map.

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Nancy Lopez
Photo by Ken Geiger/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Nancy Lopez at the 1995 JCPenney LPGA Skins Game at Stonebriar Country Club in Frisco, Texas: I never played in those skins games. I had [my second daughter] Cori in ’94 and wasn’t playing well at all. But I was desperate to get my game back. You know what? They should bring those skins games back for us. And have a senior division.

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Beth Daniel
Photo by Stephen Munday/Allsport

Beth Daniel during the 1996 Solheim Cup at St. Pierre Country Club in Chepstow, Wales: We used to have these cotton sweaters during the Solheim Cup that just grew over the round. They would get wet, and by the end of the round, they’d be around our knees. We’ve come a long way in golf clothing.

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Joanne Carner
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

U.S. captain JoAnne Carner at the 1994 Solheim Cup at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: I’ll never forget JoAnne’s hat. That was her special captain’s hat, and she wore it everywhere during that Solheim Cup. She swore it was for good luck, and we won, so I guess she was right. It was so goofy—never on correctly, always cocked to one side or the other. But man, she loved that hat.

A Different Time LPGA Tour 1990s Annika Sorenstam
Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Annika Sorenstam at the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina: Annika is 10 years younger than I am, and when she came on Tour in the mid-1990s, playing with sunglasses started to get cool. In my entire career, I had never played with sunglasses, and it was weird to me to see everyone playing with them. Annika won those two Women’s Opens [in 1995 and 1996]. I was 39 years old when I won my Open in ’99. I played my first one in 1978. I had come close a couple times, but couldn’t get it. That win in ’99 meant a lot. I crushed it that year—won five times, two majors, and got into the LPGA Hall of Fame. I never thought I would be able to be a Hall of Famer and have a family, but it turned out pretty good.