Cristie Kerr wasn’t looking back as she celebrated her 40th Thursday during the first round of the KEB Hana Bank Championship.
She was looking ahead, at what she is still aiming to conquer.
“Definitely winning another major is a goal,” Kerr told GolfChannel.com. “And the Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it.
“And I haven’t won in Asia, so that’s a new goal.”
Kerr, a 19-time LPGA winner, won her first Ladies European Tour title last week, claiming the LaCoste Ladies Open in France. She put herself in early position Thursday to check off that goal of winning in Asia.
With a 5-under-par 67, Kerr moved a shot off the lead, despite feeling a bit ill after the long trip from France to Incheon.
“I’ve been a little bit under the weather since I got here,” Kerr said. “My throat hurts a little bit, so just going to get rested up for tomorrow.”
With her 19 LPGA titles, two of them majors, Kerr has accumulated 21 LPGA Hall of Fame points. She needs six more to earn induction. A player gets two points for winning a major, one for winning a regular LPGA tour title and one point each for winning a Rolex Player of the Year Award or Vare Trophy for low scoring average. Kerr has already met World Golf Hall of Fame playing requirements and will become eligible for induction when she turns 50, or is five years removed from active tour membership.
While 40 hasn’t historically been a formidable barrier in the men’s game, the women’s game is so much younger than the men’s. The average age of the top-10 players in the women’s world rankings this week is 25.3 years old. The average age of the winners on tour last year was 22 years old.
Kerr is undaunted by those numbers.
She has won twice this year, taking the Lotte Championship back in April.
“I want to win in my 40s as well and prove it’s not just a game for the 20-somethings,” she said.
Kerr need only look across the practice range at a tour event to find Juli Inkster as inspiration for continuing to pursue new goals. Inkster, 57, an LPGA Hall of Famer, is still an active tour member out on a regular basis.
“I’m still a grinder with my practice,” Kerr said back in July when she got in contention at the U.S. Women’s Open. “I love to practice. I love to compete. I often say golf was the first thing I ever fell in love with, and it's a relationship that you can have for a lifetime.
“Julie Inkster has always been an idol of mine in that respect. If you have the desire to do it . . . I've won many times in my 30s, and now when I’m 39. I want to try to break some of the stereotypes out here, win in my 40s and 50s. Why not?”
Kerr’s consistency over the years has been impressive. She has won in 12 of the last 16 years.
“I think it’s my work ethic,” Kerr said. “I’ve also started training more recently, as well. I’m way more focused on that in the last year.”
Kerr’s success radiates beyond the game in meaningful ways. She showed that again last week winning France, an event set up to benefit the fight against cancer, a cause that is dear to Kerr’s heart.
Kerr, who founded Birdies For Breast Cancer more than a decade ago, has raised almost $4 million for the cause. Her efforts spearheaded funding of the Jersey City Medical Center’s Cristie Kerr Women’s Health Center. Kerr’s mother, Linda, is a breast cancer survivor.
Kerr said she played in France with Peggy “Pam” Kuehne and Cassandra Kirkland in mind. Kuehne, matriarch to the Kuehne golf family, died of cancer the week of the event. Kirkland was an LET winner who died of lung cancer earlier this year. Kerr donated $5,000 to the event’s cancer cause.
“I’m sorry, but f--- cancer,” a teary-eyed Kerr told reporters after winning. “I’m so sorry to say the F word, but I’m so sick of people losing people to cancer.”
That might rank as one of the most heartfelt, meaningful and excusable F-bombs an athlete ever dropped. In fact, the passion in the remark might have won Kerr as many new fans as winning the title did.
Kerr said winning in France ranked among her most meaningful victories.
“Because it’s hard to lose people,” Kerr said Thursday in South Korea. “Everybody either knows somebody or has somebody in their family that’s been affected by cancer. We’ve got to find a way to cure it. The only way to do that is to keep raising money.”