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Motivated, emotional Kerr closes 20th win

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Cristie Kerr pointed to the heavens after yet another victory Sunday.

“It was meant to be,” the American said after rolling in a dramatic 36-foot putt for birdie at the final hole to win the Sime Darby Malaysia for her 20th LPGA title.

It’s uncanny how Kerr keeps finding ways to rise to a cause larger than herself, to turn her victories into meaningful assists in the fight against cancer, something she has devoted herself to for more than a decade.

“I love what they are doing here,” Kerr said of Sime Darby Malaysia’s partnership with Cancer Research Malaysia. “It’s a beacon of hope.”

So is Kerr.

Three weeks ago, Kerr won the LaCoste Ladies Open in France, a tournament on the Ladies European Tour that was dedicated to the memory of Cassandra Kirkland, who died of lung cancer earlier this year. Kerr donated a portion of her winnings to the tournament’s fundraising cause, winning just a few days after one of her closest friends, Kelli Kuehne, lost her mother to cancer.

Kerr pledged again Sunday in Malaysia to donate to Sime Darby’s cancer-fighting effort.

Fittingly, Kerr, who turned 40 earlier this month, took charge of the Sime Darby on “Pink Saturday,” which the event devoted to breast cancer awareness.

“The average size of a tumor in America is the size of your pinky nail,” Kerr said. “Here [in Malaysia], it’s the size of a fist. Getting the message out into the community, that early detection is the key, is really huge.”

Kerr’s success is radiating beyond the game in meaningful ways. She founded Birdies for Breast Cancer more than a decade ago. Her foundation has raised almost $4 million for the cause. Her efforts spearhead funding of the Jersey City Medical Center’s Cristie Kerr Women’s Health Center. Her mother, Linda, is a breast cancer survivor.


Full-field scores from the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia


Kerr showed just how emotional she can be about the cause winning in France, where she might have dropped the most meaningful, heartfelt and excusable F-bomb ever in her victory speech.

“I’m sorry, but f--- cancer,” a teary-eyed Kerr told reporters in France. “I’m so sorry to say the F-word, but I’m so sick of people losing people to cancer.

“It’s hard to lose people. 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.”

It’s an attitude that makes Kerr easy to root for as she continues to point skyward after big victories.

Kerr’s long birdie putt at the end Sunday helped her avoid a four-way playoff. With an even-par 71, she finished at 15-under overall, a shot better than Shanshan Feng (71), Danielle Kang (66) and Jacqui Concolino (67).

“I’m so proud to be the champion of this tournament,” Kerr said.

After turning 40 at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea earlier this month, Kerr said she was driven by new goals.

“I want to win in my 40s and prove it’s not just a game for the twenty-somethings,” she said.

With Sunday’s victory, Kerr became the first player in her 40s to win an LPGA event in six years, since Catriona Matthew won the Lorena Ochoa Invitation at 42. It’s her third worldwide victory this year.

In South Korea, Kerr also said she wanted to win her first event in Asia. She didn’t take long to check that off her list.

With her 20th LPGA title, Kerr’s LPGA Hall of Fame point total rises to 22, moving her to within five points of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two for a major championship. Winners of the Rolex Player of the Year or Vare Trophy also earn a point.

“Whatever I've had in my life, or I've done in my life, it's been because of golf,” Kerr said. “No matter how much it breaks your heart, sometimes, if you have the talent that God's given me, you've got to push forward. I've done some pretty amazing things in my life.”