Kerr wins again at Kingsmill in 2-hole playoff

Cristie Kerr gets a hug from her father Michael Kerr as she celebrates winning the Kingsmill Championship. It was the first time that her father witnessed one of her wins in person.

— Cristie Kerr hugged good friends Morgan Pressel and Irene Cho on the 18th green after claiming her 16th career victory at the Kingsmill Championship. And then called for her dad.

Michael Kerr emerged from the bar, where he’d been watching the playoff with his two bum knees, to give his only daughter a big hug. Tears fell.

“I wasn’t going to lose,” said Kerr. “Not today. Not with my dad here.”

It marked the first time in Kerr’s 17-year LPGA career that her father was on site for a victory. The last time he saw her hoist a trophy was junior golf. Some of it was due to bad timing, some of it due to the ebbs and flows of a complicated relationship.

Kerr turned pro as a teenager before it became fashionable, and Michael, a retired school teacher, traveled with her the first couple years on the LPGA. He’s even written a book about it.

“I’ve never been nervous, but today I was,” said Michael Kerr, who had watched regulation play on the River Course in a scooter.

Kerr and Suzann Pettersen battled in the final group from the start, with Kerr nursing a two-stroke lead. Two of the most intense players on tour, the pair entered into a kind of match-play mode down the final stretch, coming to the 72nd hole tied at 12 under.

A Kingsmill employee trotted out iced champagne as the pair made their way to the green, but it would melt some before Kerr got a chance to toast. They left the 18th green with two pars – after Pettersen’s putt grazed the cup – and headed back to the tee with an eerily similar feel to last September, when Paula Creamer and Jiyai Shin played the 18th hole eight consecutive times in a playoff before the tournament was suspended due to darkness.

Officials changed the playoff format for this year, allowing players to play the 18th only three times before moving on to the par-4 16th.

“Only nine more to go, Cristie!” a fan yelled to Kerr as she made her way back to the tee.

Kerr hit a 5-iron on the first playoff hole to 5 feet. Given how many times Kerr had walked putts into the hole this week, it seemed a given this would end quickly.

“It was the only putt all day I didn’t start on line,” Kerr said. “The only putt.”

Pettersen got up and down for par from in front of the green to take them back to the 18th tee for a second time.

This time, Pettersen went long over the green and Kerr put it 22 feet right of the hole. After Pettersen’s chip shot came up well short, Kerr lagged her birdie attempt and knocked in a short par putt for her third Kingsmill title.

She immediately called for a cocktail.

“I was just really proud of the way I tried to tend and take care of my own game today, especially with Suzann,” said Kerr. “She likes to try and intimidate people out there, but I’m not that easily intimidated.”

Pettersen shot 67 in the final round and called it her best day of the tournament.

“Obviously it’s disappointing to lose in the playoff,” said Pettersen, “but there was a lot of good to take from it.”

Since Kerr started coming to Kingsmill back in 2003, she has stayed with host family Michael and Linda Whittaker. The couple often travels to watch Kerr play in the U.S. Women’s Open and Solheim Cups. Williamsburg very much feels like home to Kerr and her husband, Erik Stevens. She urged the local media to write nice things about this event, as organizers are still in search of a title sponsor for next year. Many players on the LPGA consider Kingsmill their favorite stop.

When Kerr accepted Kingsmill’s sparkling crystal trophy for a third time, she looked toward the grandstand and made eye contact with her father.

“It’s my day, but more importantly, it’s your day,” she said.

A day neither Kerr will soon forget.

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