ShopRite LPGA Classic pre-tournament notes and interviews

The water tower located next to the clubhouse
Photo Credit: Hunter Martin/Getty Images

A view of the water tower located next to the clubhouse during the second round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic

ShopRite LPGA Classic
Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, Bay Course
Galloway, New Jersey
Pre-tournament notes and interviews
May 30, 2012

 

Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 5 and 2004 ShopRite LPGA Classic champion

 The LPGA Tour heads back to the Garden State for the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway, New Jersey where action will unfold on the famed Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. This week’s field will feature 144 players competing for a $1.5 million purse with $225,000 to the winner.

Rolex Rankings No. 12 Brittany Lincicome returns to Galloway to defend her title after posting a 5-under-par 66 on Sunday to defeat then- Rolex Rankings No. 3 Jiyai Shin and No. 4 Cristie Kerr. She secured the win with an impressive up-and-down from the thick grass on the 18th hole, ending with a one-stroke lead. Lincicome went on to record five additional top-10 finishes in 2011 including another win at the CN Canadian Women’s Open, where she crossed the $4 million mark in career earnings.

This week’s event also features 21 of the top-25 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. This includes every winner from each event so far in the 2012 season: No. 1 Yani Tseng, No. 4 Ai Miyzatao, No. 7 Stacy Lewis, No. 14 Sun Young Yoo, No. 15 Angela Stanford, No. 79 Jessica Korda, No. 81 Pornanong Phatlum and No. 20 Azahara Munoz, who is coming off her first career victory two weeks ago at the Sybase Match Play Championship in Gladstone, New Jersey.

 

Caddie Change for Kerr…For the second straight event, Rolex Ranking No. 5 Cristie Kerr will have a new caddie on her bag. Kerr parted ways earlier this month with her caddie of the last two years, Jason Gilroyd.

“I had been struggling with some caddie issues,” said Kerr. “I let my caddie of a few years go after Mobile and then had a temporary guy at Sybase and that didn’t really work out. I was pretty uncomfortable, but it’s not his fault.”

Kerr spoke on the difficulties of finding the perfect combination of personality and knowledge in someone that will be her ‘teammate’ out on the course.

“I like to be part of a team,” she said. “Yes, I like to drive the ship but I like to have a teammate out there. You need them to obviously get the information correct and judge conditions and to know your game. Ultimately, caddying comes down to club selection and the greens.”

Kerr welcomes Worth Blackwelder back on her team starting this week and will trying to work on the successes they saw together early in her career.

“Worth was my caddie for three, maybe four years at the beginning of my career and we have five Tour wins together,” said Kerr. “He’s really easy going and he keeps me peaceful and he’s really supportive. He’s just a good caddie so I’m comfortable and feel like I’m going to be ready to go for the rest of the year now.”

“I’m glad I’m going to have some kind of continuity and somebody that’s familiar and someone that’s a good caddie and positive,” she added. “He’s exactly what I need right now and hopefully it will work out for the long term.”  

Upping the Coverage…Golf Channel will again extend its LPGA Tour coverage this week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. An hour and half of air time will be added to Saturday’s telecast (2:30-6:00p.m.ET) and two hours to the final round broadcast on Sunday (2:00-6:00p.m.ET).

Big Break reunion…Plenty of former and current contestants from Golf Channel’s hit series Big Break are onsite this week participating in the numerous pro-ams ShopRite is hosting before tournament play begins. Selanee Henderson, Christina Stockton, Kelly Villarreal, and Aubrey McCormick are all contestants on this season’s Big Break Atlantis and are still in the competition after three eliminations. Former contestants that will be taking part in the pro-am activities this week include: Ashley Prange, Kim Kouwabunpat, Bernadette Luse, Taryn Durham, Jeanne Cho, Brenda Ann Barb, Seema Sadekar, Ryann O'Toole, Gerina Piller and Kristy McPherson.

Saluting the Troops…Cristie Kerr had a busy holiday weekend leading into tournament week and spent Memorial Day honoring the armed forces, a cause she holds dear to her heart. Several members of her family have been involved in the military, including her dad who is a Vietnam veteran.

With strong personal ties to the U.S military, she has had no problem developing a strong sense of patriotism.

“I’ve always had the pride of being an American,” said Kerr. “I just take pride in my country. I have always supported the military.”

Kerr hosted 50 servicemen and women at Liberty National, the club she represents in New York and raised $15,000.All proceeds from the event went to the Wall Street War Fighter Foundation, an organization that assists wounded warriors who are interested in the finance world get training and earn jobs on Wall Street after their service. With the success of the outing in its inaugural year, Kerr hopes to make it an annual event.     

Of Note… New Jersey native Meghan Stasi is the lone amateur in the field this week and will be competing on a sponsor exemption…Samantha Richdale and Courtney Harter earned their way into the field through Monday qualifying. Richdale shot a 5-under par 66 to clinch a spot in her third LPGA Tour event this season. Harter sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff and the non-member will play in her first LPGA Tour event of her career…It was announced today that Cheyenne Woods will make her professional debut next week at the Tour’s second major of the year at the Wegmans LPGA Championship on a sponsor exemption. Woods played in the event in 2009 as an amateur, but missed the cut.

Tweet of the Day: Goes to Alison Walshe, giving a shout out to her pro-am group today

“My crazy pro am group and I here at Atlantic City CC....check those umbrellas, stylin!!!” --@Walsheyyy

 

CRISTIE KERR, Rolex Rankings No. 5

Q.  In your game or how you've been playing?
CRISTIE KERR:  You know, my game is in good shape.  I had been struggling with some caddie issues.  I let my caddie of a few years go right after Mobile, and I just had kind of a temporary guy at, and that didn't work out.

I had kind of a temporary guy the week of the Match Play and I was pretty uncomfortable on the golf course.  Not his fault.  Just kind of a bad situation, and I hired back Worth who was my caddie of like three, maybe even almost four years in the beginning of my career and we have five tour wins together.  So he's just really easygoing and just he kind of keeps me peaceful and he's just really supportive and he's a good caddie, so I'm comfortable and I feel like I'm going to be ready to go for the rest of the year now.

Q.  How did you hook back up with him?
CRISTIE KERR:  It just was sort of like he contacted me and said, hey, if you ever need my help, I'm kind of in between jobs right now, and I said, yeah, definitely, maybe we should think about trying to hook back up.  And just ended up working out with the timing.

Q.  Why did you two part originally?  Was there a reason?
CRISTIE KERR:  There's a lot of turnover out here on the tour and on the PGA TOUR.  Relationships are hard.  You spend a lot of time with your caddie and you have to be able to get along with them and sometimes something happens or a situation happens or things are just not -- you know, there's no spark after a while.  It just kind of happens.

Q.  Do you think people realize that when they're watching golf tournaments?  You hear players talk sometimes about how special the relationship is with the caddie or how not special is.
CRISTIE KERR:  Right.

Q.  People don't quite think that sometimes that harmony really does make a difference maybe.
CRISTIE KERR:  No.  It really does make a difference, and you know, I don't really switch around a lot.  I never really have.  I've really only had -- I had Worth and then I've had Jason and then I've had John for a year and then Jason and back to Worth.  So I don't really jump around that often, which is why going through the whole changeover the last month has been kind of an uncomfortable thing for me, so I'm glad I'm going to have some continuity and somebody that's familiar, that's a good caddie, that's positive.  He's exactly what I need right now and hopefully it'll work out for the long-term.

Q.  What do you want from the caddie out there?  Some players are just like show up and give me the club.
CRISTIE KERR:  No.  I like to be part of the team.  Yes, I drive the ship, but I like to have a teammate out there.  You need them to obviously get the information correct and be able to judge conditions and to know your game.       

You know, ultimately, you know caddying really comes down to like club selection into greens because you hit a tee shot off the tee, okay, hit it this far, but it's really irons and knowing, okay, 7, 8-iron, a lot of times it's what we're feeling, but there's definitely information in play there.  So you gotta kind of -- you gotta get information correct and you have to have somebody that knows your game and kind of knows how you tick, and you have to have somebody that's positive because things aren't always going to go well.  You need to have somebody that's a support structure as well.  So Worth's got kind of all of that.

Q.  Is that like we hit the great shot, she missed the putt?
CRISTIE KERR:  Well, I mean there's definitely different personalities, not only in players but caddies.  I can't say anything bad about Jason, my last caddie.  He's a great caddie.  It's just personality differences, and it was just kind of time to take a little break.  So you know, I think he's working for Jessica now, but it wasn't really like a pointing of the fingers and, you know, you did this wrong, I did this.  Sometimes you just have to go in a different direction.

Q.  And how long was Jason your caddie before you let him go?
CRISTIE KERR:  He worked for me for two years the first time and this last year for two years again.  So maybe in two years he'll work another two years for me.

THE MODERATOR:  Cristie, can you talk a little -- I know earlier in the week Monday you did this outing at Liberty National with some of the service men and women?  Can you talk a little bit about your outing and what it meant to you, I know with your father having been a Vietnam veteran.

CRISTIE KERR:  Yeah, my dad was a Vietnam veteran.  He was there in '66 and '67, and he was infantry.  He was on the ground, in the jungle.  He was in a company of 250 men that they lost 50 or 60 the first year.  So that's an unfortunate thing, but family members of mine have always been in the military, whether it's my father or, you know, his father, have always served in the military, and I've always felt like proud to be an American, you know, because you -- I don't know.

I just take pride in my country, and obviously I'm an American and I play in the Solheim Cup, and all those things come into play, but I've just always felt like I've supported the military.  And one of the members at Liberty National, Greg White, and his wife, Mary, are very good friends of ours, and we'd always talked about -- he's a big supporter of different charities with the military, Wounded Warriors or the charity that we did this event for on Monday was called Wall Street War Fighters, and it takes the wounded -- it's a similar program to Wounded Warriors, but more of a financial aspect.  So they take the Wounded Warriors and the people that are injured in battle and that are interested in the finance world, they train them for up to a year and then they find them jobs on Wall Street.

And it's got a great tie-in to Liberty National, which is the club I represent in New York, and Greg and Mary do a lot of work with that foundation, and General Pace, who basically is on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you know, he is on the board of that foundation, and it just ended up happening to where it was during Fleet Week.  It was on Memorial Day.  We basically only planned it, you know, in the last four weeks.  It came about like very suddenly.

Q.  Is that hard to plan something like that in four weeks, to get something like that done?
CRISTIE KERR:  Not really.  We have a great golf course with Liberty and a great staff and we're fairly well connected in the New York area and we just kind of used our connections in Greg and the other members at Liberty used their connections to really kind of build this event up.  It was a first-year event, and we raised $15,000, which doesn't seem like a lot, but the course, a lot of the fees were waved.  The Fireman family just really totally stepped up and supported this event, and you know, so Greg and Mary, who are the members at Liberty, and myself, had always talked about doing an event, and we just decided all the pieces fell into place, all the stars in line, and he wrote emails to like a bunch of the members, and it started with three or four foursomes and it turned out that we ended up getting 18 foursomes, and whether the members could actually be there or not, they all sponsored the service men and women that came out to play and that were part of the event.

And you know, it was mostly the armed forces members, service members that came out and played.  Like there were a few members that could make it, but most of the members that even couldn't make it, they still sponsored the event and you know, sponsored the groups, and it ended up being a great event.  So it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some of these people to come and play this kind of golf course, and it was just great.  It was great for the membership to be able to give back to something on Memorial Day during Fleet Week in New York.  It just all really tied together.

Q.  You compete for charities every week.  What was it like to be part of that, like hands on, especially like on Memorial Day with service people?
CRISTIE KERR:  It was really special, you know, because without their service, you know, I look at it like I wouldn't be able to have the opportunity to have the job that I have.  We live in a country that's free and a lot of time we take it for granted, but they're putting their lives on the line every day.

It's funny, though, because a couple of them were just so nervous playing golf on this kind of course and I just played one hole with every group, and one of the guys was like, this is so much more pressure than being shot at in Afghanistan, and I said, there's no way.  I'm sorry.  I don't believe you.  (Laughs).

But you know, without -- we take the gift of -- it's a gift, of freedom, for granted.  But without the hard work and the dedication and the sacrifice of these service men and women, we wouldn't be able to do anything.  I mean that's why America is I think the greatest country in the world because you know, like other countries you have to mandatory -- you have to be in the military mandatorally, however you say it.  But you know, U.S. is one of the only countries where it's all on a voluntary basis for the military, obviously, besides Vietnam.  But I think we live in the greatest country in the world and I just wanted to say thank you and just be a part of this event, and I'd always talked about it with Greg and Mary White, and they rallied the membership, and I did my part and it just all kind of came together.

Q.  Is there going to be an annual event do you think?  Did your dad get to go?
CRISTIE KERR:  I hope so.  And yes, I brought my dad up for the weekend before.  I got to see him and go out.

Q.  What did he think about it?
CRISTIE KERR:  He thought it was great.  He really did.  He just had his knee operated on three months ago, knee replacement, so he couldn't actually play in it.  But it was special for him.

Q.  Did he say anything about the way vets are kind of treated now?  He came home in an era where they were kind of overlooked a little bit?
CRISTIE KERR:  Yeah, definitely.  They didn't have post traumatic stress disorder, whatever the last time when they came back from Vietnam.  I can remember -- I mean it's just so traumatic.  Even if you're only over there for a year or two years.  It's so traumatic.  Like I used to travel with him with junior golf when I was a kid and he'd be sleeping and dreaming and yelling out orders to people.  Alfred, cover, get this, take cover.  You know, like man that gun over there or whatever.  And he would never remember it when he woke up.  You don't realize how traumatic it is.

Q.  I had a cousin who was over there who couldn't talk about it?
CRISTIE KERR:  They don't really talk about it that much.  They really don't.  It's not like something they want to brag about.  They do their service and it's a traumatic time, and you know, it's not something I really hear any of the troops wanting to talk about, but yet they say I want to get back over there.  Like even the injured service men and women say I want to go back.  I need to go back.  I need to be with my guys, my girls.  Like I need to be with my unit.

Like it's just a different thing.  It's almost like -- which is why like programs like the Wounded Warrior project that the LPGA is associated with and now Wall Street War Fighters is such a great thing to be involved in because that's their world and then they get injured and they come back, it's a shock.  Like they don't know how to make it in our world because their world this is all they do and it's a shock to be almost integrated back into society because you know, it's different.  So you have to have programs like that.

Q.  So the four-foot putt really isn't worse?
CRISTIE KERR:  No, definitely not.  Life's all about perspective; right?  And I just think that I want to try and build this event at Liberty, because it's good for the membership and it's a feel-good project, and you know, it pertains to Wall Street, and Wall Street gets a bad rap by a lot of people, especially with what happened with the financial crisis and whatever.  Wall Street is one of those things that America needs, and it's a place that these Marines or Coast Guard or Navy or Army or whatever, they have a lot of specific skill set and they're very detailed oriented and they'd be very good in the financial world, so when they come back and they're wounded in any shape form or another you can take them and train them and put them to good use and that's what Wall Street war fighters is.

Q.  What has it meant to you, you were talking about this event, but you were talking so much to with your wine label and this women's health center that you've started.  To be able to put so much forth in terms of charitable efforts, and I know this week you're partnered with ShopRite and Coca-Cola to raise funds for the women's health center.  But what do you get so much from giving back?
CRISTIE KERR:  It makes me feel really good.  A lot of people ask what do you want to be remembered for, your golf or other things and it sounds like an end-of-career question, but no, I mean I'm just really thrilled that my life has kind of taken this direction because, yeah, I want to win 20 more tournaments and I want to get in the Hall of Fame.  I want to do all these kinds of things, but I just feel like if you're successful -- it's okay to be successful as long as you give back, and I guess the more I've gotten older, the more I've really appreciated that and understood that, and that's kind of what I want to do.  So whether it's the wine, which we recently are sold out now because we sold a large chunk of it to China, and are even looking at expanding our line business or it's the women's health center that we have in Jersey City with Jersey City Medical Center, or different charities and projects, like I just feel like people get remembered for the things they do for other people and not necessarily just for -- unless you're like somebody that has the hundred tour wins.  I just think that I want to be remembered in a good light.  I want to be remembered for helping people.

I mean of course, I want to be personally successful, but I would feel better for myself doing that and not feeling selfish if I just tried to help other people, and that's kind of what my focus has been outside of the course, because it's just really fulfilling and I think karmacally it just kind of all comes back to you.

Q.  Are you buying that whole role model thing -- I know the LPGA is really big on that, too.  But you sort of seem like there's sort of an obligation there, like I've made it, I've had a good life.
CRISTIE KERR:  Yeah, definitely, and it's kind of a contagious thing.  The more I do, whether it's for my own personal charity or other, you want to do more.  And it's not like it's no work at all.  It's a lot of work, but it feels really good, and I feel like I will play better and I feel like I will do better for myself as long as I feel like I'm giving back.  You know what I mean?  Like it all comes back to you, and I guess that's kind of the way the universe works.  I don't know.

Q.  How hard is it to get a balance between your job and helping people?  I mean helping so many people, I'm sure people are always kind of like pulling at you to --
CRISTIE KERR:  Well, I mean I'm somewhat selfish.  I mean we all are somewhat selfish.  But I do what I can in the time that I have.  I'm not saying I spend every moment of every day when I'm not on the golf course working on other stuff.  That would be unrealistic.  But -- I forgot the question.

Q.  Just balancing your life.
CRISTIE KERR:  Oh, yeah.  I mean you have to try and find a balance.  You know, I mean I have a lot of my own personal obligations with my sponsors and golf, we own an investment company, and obviously the wine business.  So there's a lot of things that I have to do on a daily basis, and you know, if I didn't work with my husband on those things, I don't know if I would necessarily see him as much as I do.  People don't realize how busy I actually am.  But I try and do as much as I can.

Q.  Real Sports is doing a piece this month on how many Koreans now are coming over.  How is it being on the LPGA Tour now?  You're the highest ranked American.  How much has the tour changed like since you came out here?  Is it harder for the Americans now, like to try to make it to be where you're at or --
CRISTIE KERR:  It has changed a lot more because when I came out, there were a lot more Americans, and now there are a lot more international faces, whether they are Asians or Europeans or Australians, whatever.  It is harder, you know, for the Americans to stand out and stand out consistently.  We're just out numbered.

And you know, that's -- you know, it was written a couple of years ago, when are the Americans going to step up, and I think really, honestly, in the last couple years I think we have stepped up.  Angela's won this year.  Stacy's won this year.  I mean I have not won in over a year now, and I'm looking to get back into the winner's circle.  You say I'm the top-ranked American.  I have to work hard to keep that.  There's a lot of talented people out here and I don't discount that.

Q.  Do you feel it's a little unfair when people put that -- like you may say, well, we are trying.  We are doing as well as we can to be where we're at.  We're just out numbered.
CRISTIE KERR:  That's all we can do.  We're definitely outnumbered.  If it's a numbers game you look at the Top 10 every week, how many Americans are in the Top 10 and how many international players, whether they are Korean or Taiwanese or whatever, you know, if there are three out of ten, odds are definitely not in our favor that we're going to win every week, you know.  So we're kind of out numbered in a sense, but we've got a lot of great Americans coming up, a lot of young girls coming up.

Q.  That's what Mike said a couple weeks ago when we talked to him.  He said, if I can have 5 of the top 15 being Americans, that's a good percentage, I think, with such global participation.
CRISTIE KERR:  Oh, yeah.  Definitely.  For sure.  We're building our base back in America now.  We're starting to get more tournaments in America.  We certainly have enough overseas.  We're over there three to four times a year for three or four-week stretches at a time.  That's a lot.  And we're definitely starting to focus on building our base back in America.  And we're doing all we can.

Q.  And what's the state of your game this week, with the new caddie and the whole thing?
CRISTIE KERR:  I feel good.  I feel good.  I really feel good.

Q.  Are you ready go get back in the winner's circle?
CRISTIE KERR:  Besides all that other stuff, with a new -- same clubs, but just a new set of irons because my other irons got so worn out I was starting to hit shots that went very inconsistent distances, so I've got a new set since Sybase base.  I didn't really get to use them that much at Sybase, but this week I've finalized the loft and lie that I need to have on the clubs.  So I've been kind of struggling with that a little bit, too.  So everything is kind of calming down and I'm getting ready to play now.

Q.  Does it feel good to come here?
CRISTIE KERR:  It does.

Q.  You've had success here.
CRISTIE KERR:  Yeah, and I've won with Worth here.  This is one of our five wins that we half won.  So just kind of all feels like things are starting to align.

Q.  What is Worth's full name?
CRISTIE KERR:  Tracy Wadsworth Blackwelder, III.  That's why people call him Worth.

Q.  And what is it with the wine business that you do?  Is there like a charity involved with that?
CRISTIE KERR:  Curvature Wines is my wine label.  I'm a vintner.  I'm not a wine maker.  The folks at Pride Mountain Vineyards in Napa, who's one of the top 100 wine estates in the world make the wine for us, and we're a small production.  We make 5 to 600 cases a year and 100 percent of the profits go to breast cancer research.  50 percent to Suzanne Pride's charity and 50 percent to our own charity.  Hopefully we'll be able to expand that one day, but for now that's what we're doing, and we've recently literally just sold all of it between placing it in high-end clubs like Oakmont or some of the Trump properties or restaurants in New York, like BLT Prime Steak Houses.  We're in very high-end places.  We've sold a lot of wine to China recently, so now we're sold out and our '09 cab is getting ready to be released, so '09, '10, and '11, I'm sure the Chinese company called Queen's Way is going to be purchasing a lot of that as well, so that's the best case scenario we could have ever hoped for.  Because I was so in the hole -- I was probably -- we were making this wine saying we were going to give 100 percent of the profits away, but there were no profits until this year.  So I was several hundred thousand dollars in the hole, and hoping to get my money back and really believing in this project and the product, and finally it has basically tipped to where we have -- we're faced with wanting to expand and trying to figure out how to do that and can we do that, because we can keep doing what we're doing and make this certain amount for charity or we can really expand or make a wine for profit as a second label to the brand that we give away 100 percent of the profits, so we're trying to figure out what to do right now.  It's a good problem to have.

Q.  Do you see a day when the event on Memorial Day becomes like five, to ten years from now where it just grows and grows and grows?
CRISTIE KERR:  Yeah.  I think so.  It would be really cool to have like an Armed Forces Cup, have the better Marine golfers play against the better Army golfers and Navy.  I think it would just be really fun.  A lot of competition.

THE MODERATOR:  Wonderful.  Thanks, Cristie.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, ShopRite LPGA Classic, Kerr, Cristie

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