No back pain. No hand injuries. No balky knees. In nearly 30 years as a professional golfer, Juli Inkster sidestepped all the aggravating injuries that so often sideline players in her game.
It couldn't last forever. And it didn't.
Inkster, 51, suddenly finds herself in a strange frontier. The LPGA season started without her last month and will roll into summer without her. Inkster had surgery to repair nerve and tendon damage in her right elbow Jan. 27, leaving her out of the mix until July or August.
She hit lots of golf balls over the years, from her youth in Santa Cruz, Calif., to her college days at San Jose State to her long, prosperous, Hall of Fame career. Remarkably, she wasn't once sidelined by injury -- and she kept playing even when her elbow began bothering her late in 2010.
Inkster made 20 starts last year, aided in part by a couple of cortisone shots. She posted four top-10 finishes, no easy feat competing against players less than half her age.
Now, as Yani Tseng and Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie smack the little white ball on tour, Inkster works with a physical therapist in San Francisco. She can't even chip and putt -- she's still wearing a brace to protect the elbow -- so she does cardio exercises, completes daily tasks with her left hand and wades in restlessness.
"The poor dog is walked to death," Inkster said, chuckling. "Every time I grab the leash, she just cringes. ... It's a different lifestyle for me."
It's also a reminder Inkster is not ready to retire. This would be a logical time to step away, because her legacy is secure. She's in the LPGA and World Golf halls of fame. She was inducted into the San Francisco Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame last year. She's in line to become U.S. Solheim Cup captain one day.
After winning 31 tournaments (including seven majors) and representing the game with class, Inkster deserves to go out the way she wants. And she wants to play more.
"This gives me something to work for -- to get back to health and get back to playing," she said. "I know it's not going to be easy playing against 16-, 18- and 20-year-olds. I know my age.
"I'm not going to be No. 1, but I can compete out there. It's not a job. I enjoy it."