Golf

From Sunset High to LPGA stardom, Cristie Kerr enjoying golf more than ever

Cristie Kerr holds up the trophy after winning the LPGA Kia Classic golf tournament Sunday, March 29, 2015 in Carlsbad, Calif.
Cristie Kerr holds up the trophy after winning the LPGA Kia Classic golf tournament Sunday, March 29, 2015 in Carlsbad, Calif. AP

A long time has passed since Cristie Kerr played golf at Miami Sunset High — some 20 years.

It was during the mid-1990s when Kerr attended Sunset and thought she would not be able to compete, because there was no girls’ golf team at the school. Fortunately for Kerr, the school’s golf coach, athletic director and principal decided that entire situation was grossly unfair, so they plotted a way to circumvent existing rules.

They added Kerr to the boys’ team, and there were no regulations to prevent them from doing just that.

Kerr became the No. 1 golfer for the Knights and defeated most of the male opponents she competed against.

That was the start of a career that has included 18 LPGA Tour championships.

And the past three months have been a highlight of that career, with Kerr winning the CME Group Tour Championship two weekends ago, and before that in September traveling to Germany to help the United States capture the Solheim Cup against Europe by going 3-0-1 in her matches. She was a huge part of the United States’ dramatic 14 1/2-13 1/2 triumph, staging the biggest final-day comeback in the event’s history.

Of the Solheim victory, one of the most important competitions for women’s golf, Kerr said: “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to win more in my life than for this team. … I needed to do it for my teammates and my captain. That just put me in a place I don’t think I’ve ever been before on the golf course. And I just made birdie after birdie after birdie after birdie, and it was crazy.”

Most people probably think the LPGA is dominated by younger players these days, with many wunderkinds such as Lydia Ko, 18, enjoying huge success.

At age 38, Kerr is not fazed by representing the slightly older generation.

“I think good golf is just good golf,” she said after her CME victory in Naples. “It doesn’t really matter what age you are. I think I proved that. I hope you are still asking me about age when I’m 45. Hopefully, I’ll still be winning tournaments. Good golf really doesn’t know an age.”

Asked if she has been recapturing her youth, she replied, “I don’t know about that. That might be a stretch. Age is just a number.”

Kerr, a mother of one, is also proud of her parenting role.

“I hope it inspires the women of our tour to feel like they can have children and play out here,” she said. “Our day care, they do an amazing job. It’s natural for us to be players and mothers. A mom can not only win on the tour, but win multiple tournaments.”

Making the past two weeks even more special and more enjoyable for Kerr was that a fellow lifelong South Floridian and close friend, Lexi Thompson of Coral Springs, was also having success.

Thompson finished in fourth place at the CME and went 2-0-2 in the Solheim, with the two victories coming when she paired up with Kerr in Four-Ball and Foursomes in Germany.

In addition, at the CME, Thompson was on the 18th green dodging sprays of champagne as she happily helped Kerr celebrate that victory.

Kerr’s affection for the game is not in doubt: “I love what I do. I love golf. I just love giving back to the game. Golf has given me so many great memories.”

And those memories would go all the way back to Sunset High when she was making quite a few of her male competitiors more than a bit embarrassed.

NSU NO. 3

Nova Southeastern, the defending national champion, is the top South Florida school in the Bushnell Golfweek Division II National Coaches Poll, holding the No. 3 position. Barry University checks in at No. 6 and Lynn at No. 8. Chico State of California is the top-ranked team.

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