Cristie Kerr knows what it’s like to win a U.S. Women’s Open in the Sandhills region of North Carolina.
She did so at Southern Pines’ Pine Needles in 2007 and is trying again this week at Pinehurst No. 2.
“I’ve got a lot of great memories in this area,” Kerr said. “I can’t imagine a better place to go and play golf. I’m so glad to be back.”
Kerr, 36, has long been one of the LPGA Tour’s top players with 16 career victories. Her triumphant week at Pine Needles remains a pivotal time in her career.
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“Oh, it was huge,” she said. “I’d always dreamed of winning the Open as a little girl. It was a moment that was a step forward in my career. The biggest moment at the time.”
Kerr had been building toward that moment, winning eight tournaments in her previous three seasons. Her career stalled somewhat after the U.S. Open victory, with just a single victory in each of her next three seasons.
“Most of the time when somebody wins an Open, they definitely have a little lull in their career,” Kerr said. “I did back then because you have to adjust your mindset. You’re now a major winner and sometimes you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. But you don’t. So it was a huge moment for me. It made me grow.”
Kerr is back in North Carolina with a fair amount of momentum. She finished second at the Manulife Financial Classic two weeks ago, one of her seven top-10 finishes this season.
The U.S. Golf Association hosted a champions dinner for former U.S. Women’s Open winners Tuesday night at Pinehurst’s Carolina Hotel.
“Everybody there was a great player,” said two-time and defending champion Inbee Park. “I felt like I was really special in the room, as well. But there was so many players that are good to admire and it was good to see them.”
Paula Creamer, who won in 2008, said hearing stories from players like Donna Caponi-Byrnes and Sandra Palmer made the night memorable.
“Hearing things like how nervous people were, those are things I’ll take forever, cherish those memories,” Creamer said.
It was the first champions dinner for the women; the men had a champions dinner in 2013 at Merion (Pa.) Golf Club.
Some 70 breast cancer survivors and their guests will follow Morgan Pressel on the back nine Friday. The group is made up of employees from N.C.-based LabCorp, a leader in pre-cancerous genetic testing. Pressel’s mother died from breast cancer in 2003, and Pressel devotes charitable efforts toward breast cancer testing.
“I’m sure by Sunday it will be hard and bouncy, and we will be complaining like we always do.” – Laura Davies, on the conditions of the greens, which she said are relatively soft and receptive as the tournament gets underway.
Number to know
1,702 Number of entries for U.S. Women’s Open, breaking the record of 1,420 from 2013 (156 are in the field).