BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Cristie Kerr really wanted to get the President of the United States’ attention Saturday at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Coming off the 15th green, she stopped and turned toward President Donald Trump’s private box. She thrust her hand in the air and began waving and waving.
Alas, the president was preoccupied in a conversation.
It doesn’t matter, because Kerr has a grand plan that promises to get Trump and everyone else’s attention if she can pull it off Sunday at Trump National.
Kerr is going to try to orchestrate a monumental upset.
She is going to try to overtake the real superpowers in women’s golf - Asia’s best - and win her second U.S. Women’s Open 10 years after she won her first.
And then, who knows, perhaps watch the president himself hand her the Harton S. Semple Trophy, if he’s around for another day.
It would be an extraordinary ending to what is already an extraordinary U.S. Women’s Open.
In the middle of Saturday’s round, players and fans alike watched a fighter jet and Coast Guard helicopter appear to try to force a plane violating “Temporary Flight Restrictions” over Trump National out of the air space over the club.
“They chased them right out,” Kerr said. “Kind of cool to see.”
The White House Pool Report later explained that the helicopter and jet were merely confirming the plane’s tail number, which was from a plane approved for Fox-TV use.
Outside the gates, this event is being protested by UltraViolet and other activist groups who believe the USGA and LPGA should not be aligned with Trump. A motorcade of protesters circled the course Friday with anti-Trump posters attached to their vehicles.
Players and fans have been sheltered from all of that.
Winning Sunday will be no easy task for Kerr with China’s Shanshan Feng playing so formidably, and with so many South Koreans poised right behind Feng.
Feng shot a 1-under-par 71 Saturday, finishing off a round of 17 consecutive pars with a birdie at the last. At 9-under 207, Feng is bidding to become the first player in 40 years to win this championship wire-to-wire. It hasn’t been done since Hollis Stacy won at Hazeltine in 1977.
If all goes as Feng plans, she might become the first player to win the U.S. Women’s Open in a spotted-cow print ensemble. She played in spotted-cow print shorts and sleeves on Friday and fans loved it.
“So many people ask for them,” Feng said. “Maybe I’ll wear them tomorrow.”
Feng may lead, but she will be challenged with six South Koreans lined up right behind her. The Koreans practically own the U.S. Women’s Open. They have won six of the last nine, four of the last six.
Amy Yang (70) and 17-year-old amateur Hye-Jin Choi (70) are one shot back. Choi is trying to become just the second amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open. France’s Catherine LaCoste was the first to win it 50 years ago.
Sung Hyun Park (67) is th reeback.
Rolex world No. 1 So Yeon Ryu (71), Jeongeun6 Lee (73) and Mirim Lee (67) are four back.
And then there is Kerr (70), the lone American among the top 13 players on the board.
Kerr is five shots back.
At 39, Kerr is 12 years older than any of those players lined up in front of her. She’s also battling back spasms, which became so sharp she almost pulled out of this championship during the first round and again in the second round.
“There was a point on Thursday when she turned to me and said `I don’t know how much more I can go,’” said Erik Stevens, Kerr’s husband.
Stevens wondered aloud if it was time to pack it in on Friday.
“She said, `No, I’m going to muscle my way through,’” Stevens said.
Kerr is playing on anti-inflammatories and a medicinal steroid.
“She's tough,” said Brady Stockton, Kerr’s caddie. “It's been like a muscle spasm. So, even though it hurts really badly, and it sounds horrible and she's moaning and groaning, it's a muscle spasm. There is no damage she can do, as far as we've decided.”
Kerr has been getting massages from an LPGA physiotherapist during rounds.
“Pure insanity,” Kerr said. “Another tournament in the world, you would think about just going home but not this one. So, I had to try to just stick it through.”
Kerr, by the way, did get President Trump’s attention coming off the 18th green Saturday after her round. He shot her a thumbs up, and then he sent an invitation to join him in his private box.
This has been a U.S. Women’s Open week like no other, with Trump’s attendance creating so much attention with his arrival on Friday. While more protests are planned Sunday, Trump appears to be relishing his visit, with fans continuing to wildly welcome his presence.
How unusual is this U.S. Women’s Open?
Kerr, her husband Erik and her caddie, Brady Stockton, were all frisked before they entered Trump’s private box. Secret Service agents in bullet-proof vests with assault rifles were stationed close by.
Before heading off to see the president, Kerr was asked what they might talk about.
“I don’t know,” Kerr said. “I’m not going to talk politics. I can tell you that.”