Known as a heartedly self-motivated player on the LPGA Tour, Cristie Kerr used a little bit of extra personal motivation this week to claim her 17th career LPGA Tour victory at the Kia Classic. It looked as if nothing would get in Kerr’s way en-route to a final-round 65. Her four-round total of 20-under par 268 broke the event’s scoring record by four shots.
“It does, and you know what, my caddie Greg’s father passed away last week, and he wasn’t with me in Phoenix,” said Kerr. “I played for the both of us this week, and I said I was going to do it, and I did it and it made it that much more special for us as our first win together and for my son being there, my family, and probably ‑‑ I mean this right here.”
Kerr started Sunday’s round three shots off the lead and a hot putter in the middle of the round helped kick start the charge. She carded five birdies in a span of six holes from Nos. 5-10. But a bogey on the par 4 12th dropped her back into a three-way tie with Lydia Ko and Mirim Lee at 17-under par.
“You know, starting to the fifth hole, you know, the first couple ‑‑ first couple holes I just made really great pars and just hung in there, actually the first three holes I did that, and you know, I said to Gregor, my caddie on 5, come on, you know, here we begin,” said Kerr. “I made a lot of birdies on the front after that, even, you know, even not birdieing the 8th hole, I still did great on the front and just gutted out a terrific birdie on 10.”
Kerr bogeyed her first hole of the day on No. 12 but ignited a fire which started a birdie barrage of four-consecutive birdies on Nos. 13-16 and extended her lead to three shots with two holes to play.
But second-year Tour member Mirim Lee hit the shot of the day, bombing her tee shot on the par 4 16th hole to three feet. She sank the putt for eagle and cut the lead to one shot.
But Lee would double bogey No. 17 from a poor tee shot that landed in the right woods and dropped two shots back. Kerr walked to the 18th tee with a three-shot lead, a good enough cushion to let her bogey the final hole and finish two shots clear.
“I feel obviously very confident. I am so happy that my caddie and I got a win early on the board together,” said Kerr. “You know, his father passing away last week, I mean it just shows you life is really short and you have to seize the moment when you can, and I really just felt extra motivation to play for us and also reflecting back to what I’m grateful for and have in my life. I just tried to play as many shots without interference as possible this week, and I did great.”
Kerr made 43 starts in between her last two victories, her last coming at the 2013 Kingsmill Championship. She becomes the first American winner of the 2015 season and first to win the event in its six-year history. Kerr said the win had a little bit of destiny attached to it now that she and her caddie got their first win coming off an emotional week.
“Just felt like it was meant to be, our first win together, even our first Top 10 together really,” said Kerr.
“I mean we just fell in stride and the team that we are is pretty amazing in such a short period of time.”