Cristie Kerr: Profile of a Renaissance Woman

Cristie Kerr. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Cristie Kerr. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

A closer look at Cristie Kerr, who earned her 19th LPGA title at the 2017 LOTTE Championship

Cristie Kerr may be one of the most complex women on the LPGA Tour. She’s an aggressive, sometimes outrageously aggressive competitor who commands proper behavior of her balls, strides down the fairway like she owns the golf course, walks her putts into the cup, and generally ignores her opponents.

I think Kerr is one of the most entertaining players – male or female – in the pro golf world. Her technical competence and her mental acuity are unrivaled. I think it was her mental force that unified Team USA and fueled its drive to reclaim control of the Solheim Cup in 2015.

When Cristie Kerr is playing golf, you get the impression that she’s only playing golf, that she’s blocked out every possible distraction, that nothing exists for her beyond her golf ball, her club, and the shot she’s preparing to execute.

But @CKGolferChic is considerably more than a pro golfer. She’s self-described on her Twitter page as a “Champion Golfer, Vintner, aspiring Sommelier, Philanthropist.” And that’s just the public side of Cristie Kerr. Let’s not forget that she’s also Mason’s mom and Erik’s wife. That’s a big handful of roles, public and private, for a 39-year old woman who enjoys a net worth of an estimate $15 millions.

The Competitive Golfer

Kerr’s promising junior golf and amateur career anticipated her success as a pro golfer. She started competing at a 9-year old and by high school was playing on the boy’s golf team because there was no girls team. Her amateur career culminated with low amateur honors at the 1996 US Women’s Open.

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Kerr turned pro as an 18-year old. She’s now been playing pro golf for 21 years, longer than the new generation of young women, led by Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Brooke Henderson, against whom she competes quite effectively, have been alive.

But Kerr’s on-course accomplishments – including the 2007 US Women’s Open and 2010 Women’s PGA Championships – and her golf-related public accolades – including the Muhammad Ali Award for Sportsperson and ESPY winner for Female Golfer of the Year (twice) are only one part of her story.

Social Activist and Philanthropist

in 2003, the year her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Cristie Kerr took action to combat the disease. She founded Birdies for Breast Cancer, a nonprofit that generates support for breast cancer research, and threw herself into the project in much the same relentless fashion that she attacks a golf course. Always a person who’s willing to put her money where her mouth is, Kerr donates $50 to Birdies for Breast Cancer for every birdie on her tournament cards.

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She rounds up an always impressive list of golf and other glitterati for her annual pro-am Birdies for Breast Cancer charity tournament that reaches beyond her golf circle of like-minded pals – Morgan Pressel and Natalie Gulbis particularly – to include folks like Jason Kidd, Brooklyn Nets head coach, New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara and Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz. The charity tournament generated an estimated $500K annually to the Birdies organization.

Cristie Kerr is an astonishingly effective fundraiser. I would imagine that it’s very difficulty to say no to her when she puts the ask on you, and she seems to put the ask on a wide range of associates. Her golf sponsors donate to Birdies for Breast Cancer when she records a high tournament finish. In 2006 the Susan G Koman Foundation formally recognized Kerr’s personal efforts and Birdies for Breast Cancer‘s success with the Komen Award. Things didn’t stop there. In 2010 Birdies for Breast Cancer partnered with the Jersey City Medical Center to establish The Cristie Kerr Women’s Health Center. It’s a state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment facility that focuses on women’s health issues.

And Then There’s The Wine Business

Curvature Wines came along in 2006, a partnership Kerr forged with the Napa Valley winery Pride Mountain Vineyards. Curvature has several very popular vintages. Trump resorts carry the Curvature label – perhaps an outgrowth of Cristie Kerr’s 2005 appearance on The Apprentice and her ongoing friendship with Donald Trump – and the Curvature 2007 cabernet vintage was served at Obama’s White House in 2012 at a state dinner for Angela Merkel.

Golf was the vehicle for bringing her cabernet came to the attention of the White House sommelier, Kerr explained:

"We got the introduction to Daniel Shanks, the sommelier at the White House, when we went on a Solheim Cup Tour. He cornered me and said, ‘You have two minutes, go.’ I told him the whole story and he asked for some samples. We found out later that our 2007 Cabernet was served at a state dinner for Angela Merkel. It was pretty awesome."

Curvature profits are donated to Birdies for Breast Cancer but Cristie Kerr’s second wine venture, Kerr Cellars, may be a horse of a different color. She’s reaching for a more critical acclaim with the Kerr Cellars products. It’s certainly a very classy-looking label as is the Kerr Cellars logo she’s sporting on her golf cap these days.

Kerr Cellars is producing small-batch, hand-crafted wines. Two products are currently available: the pinot noir is currently available at $59/750 ml bottle and the sauvignon blanc at $29/750 ml bottle.

How does she keep all these balls in the air? Kerr explained to San Diego Magazine’s Jessica Weinberger that in life as in golf, it’s just a matter of hard work and staying with the grind:

"If you have a dream, believe in it. There are never any shortcuts to being successful. You have to work hard every day to make a dream come true, but in the end it’s all worth it."

As Cristie Kerr was plowing past Korea’s Su-Yeon Jang on Sunday afternoon on the back nine at the LOTTE Championship, and holding off charges from Lydia Ko and In Gee Chun, to claim her 19th LPGA title, Golf Channel commentators were discussing her LPGA Hall of Fame eligibility. She needs another win or two to complete the eligibility requirements. Given what she’s accomplished, that discussion feels almost anticlimactic.

Next: LPGA: 2017 Standout Rookies to Watch

There’s no doubt in my mind that Hall of Fame membership will come for Cristie Kerr. But there’s also absolutely no question that Cristie Kerr has already achieved more at the level of individual performance than most professional athletes in any sport accomplish, and her impact on the broader community is well beyond the ordinary.