Cristie Kerr is tough to beat with that look in her eye.
She won with it Sunday at the Kia Classic, claiming her 17th LPGA title, her first since the Kingsmill Championship almost two years ago. It can be disconcerting and unsettling in its piercing nature, a look as close as women in golf get to witnessing what UFC fighters see behind Rhonda Rousey’s cocked fist.
That’s what made Kerr’s tears so striking after she closed out her victory at Aviara Golf Club.
From fierce to glistening, from hard to soft, those eyes told a rich story Sunday of how Kerr ended her 22-month winless spell.
She won desperately wanting to win for the first time as a mother.
Kerr, 37, is known for being as tough as nails between the ropes. At her best, she walks in putts the way a boxer walks over to an opponent he just knocked out. She barks at golf balls fully expecting their unwavering obedience. That’s what made her tears in the aftermath of the victory so unexpected.
Kerr cried realizing a dream, scooping up her 15-month-old son, Mason, aside the 18th green for the first time after winning.
“It was amazing having him there, and he just gave me a big smile and a squeak,” Kerr said in her news conference afterward. “I always hoped this day would come and now it has, and I’m just so proud.”
Kerr’s husband, Erik Stevens, was there relishing the moment, too. Nobody understood what the moment meant more.
“When I got in contention last year, I thought about winning a little too much, wanting Mason to be on the green, but you know, everything happens for a reason,” Kerr said. “Last year, he couldn't have run out to meet me. So maybe that was fate, too. But it was just huge.”
Kerr also wanted to win for Greg Johnston, her caddie. His father died a week ago. He missed the JTBC Founders Cup to mourn with family.
“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,” Kerr said. “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. “
Kerr will be looking to seize the moment again next week at the ANA Inspiration, formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year’s first major championship. She’ll be taking a load of confidence with her after Sunday’s victory at Kia. She’ll be taking that look in her eye, too, the one that makes her dangerous with a major on the line.