Cristie Kerr no longer is one of the LPGA’s upstarts. At age 26, she’s a savvy, steady veteran. And this year, she has been teaching a new group of young guns a thing or two about the value of experience.
For the third time this year, Kerr held off a young player looking for her first career victory, edging the exuberant Christina Kim by a shot Sept. 5 at the State Farm Classic.
Like the 20-year-old Kim, Kerr turned professional right out of high school. But that was eight years ago, and Kerr – who entered 2004 with one LPGA title – finally is fulfilling the potential she displayed as a youngster.
After dispatching of 22-year-old Seol-An Jeon in a playoff at the Takefuji Classic in April and defeating then-17-year-old Paula Creamer by one stroke at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June, Kerr knocked out Kim Sunday. Kerr started the final round with a four-stroke lead and shot a final-round 69, saving par from a bunker on the 72nd hole for a 24-under 264 total.
“This win is definitely unique,” Kerr said. “It’s definitely a different way to win. I felt like I had the lead and came from behind to win at the same time.”
For Kim – whose previous-best finish was a tie for fourth at her first LPGA event, the Welch’s/Fry’s Championship in 2003 – the runner-up finish still was a career breakthrough.
Kim, who shot a final-round 66, made birdie at 14 and eagle at the par-5 15th for a one-shot lead. But she fell a stroke back after a bogey at the par-3 16th and Kerr’s birdie at 17. On the 18th, it looked as if there would be a two-shot swing – or at least a playoff – as Kerr put her second shot in a bunker, and Kim knocked her approach to 4 feet. But Kerr blasted out to just inside Kim’s mark, then watched as Kim pushed her putt.
“I was terrified,” Kim said of her birdie putt. “I kept telling myself, just breathe. I’ve been in contention before, but I’ve never had it come down to the wire on the very last hole.”
Kerr then stepped up and drained her par putt for the victory.
“When the chips were down and it looked like she would birdie and I would bogey, I dug down deep and hit a great shot,” Kerr said. “(My experience) kept me a lot more calm. . . . I found a way to totally go within myself and be at peace.”
– Staff and wire reports