American Cristie Kerr described how playing for a cancer charity to celebrate the life of the late Ladies European Tour player Cassandra Kirkland inspired her to record an opening round of eight-under-par 62 in the Lacoste Ladies Open de France at Golf de Chantaco in Saint-Jean-de-Luz on Thursday.
The 78 competitors in the tournament field were asked to come to the course dressed in white, the official colour for lung cancer awareness and to donate five euros per birdie for the first two rounds of the tournament, with the proceeds to be donated to ARTIC, a charity close to Cassandra, who passed away from cancer in April.
Kerr, who became the all-time leading points-scorer for the United States team in The Solheim Cup in August, carded eight birdies on the first day to finish three strokes ahead of six other players.
“It was a perfect day: raising money for a cancer charity out there and it was emotional,” said the 39-year-old from Miami, adding: “I lost a good friend a couple of days ago to cancer and we are raising money in memory of Cassandra. I went out wanting to play inspired and I did.”
Kerr, who is actively involved in fundraising for breast cancer research, through the foundation she founded, called Birdies for Breast Cancer, has 19 wins, including two Major championship victories, on the LPGA Tour, as well as one win on the Futures Tour.
She remains determined to achieve her goals and added: “I know my game is there. I think what sets me apart sometimes is the fire in my belly and the determination to get it done. I am playing for a cause this week, so I was happy to have a great round.
“It was great, especially with the course not in perfect condition. I went out there and got it done. That’s what champions do, so I have to keep plugging, keep trying and have some consistent days.”
The players on five-under-par are the French pair Justine Dreher and Camille Chevalier, Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands, Patricia Sanz Barrio from Spain, Ursula Wikstrom from Finland and Annabel Dimmock from England. The Lalla Meryem Cup champion Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic, Belen Mozo from Spain and Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord are all a stroke further behind on four-under-par.
Although the course has taken a huge amount of water over the last week, Kerr said that she grew up playing in similar conditions and for Mozo, who hit the headlines on Monday due to voicing her displeasure at playing in what she considered to be dangerously windy conditions in the New Zealand Women’s Open, the conditions were perfect.
After her round, she said: “I missed Europe so much! I know the trip was long but my mindset was positive because I was happy and I don’t feel jet lagged at all. I forgot how easy it is to play in no wind. It’s not easy and the course has its challenges, because of how wet it is, but you have to adapt every week to different scenarios, so in seven years on tour I’ve learned how to adapt.”
Mozo’s compatriot Azahara Muñoz, targeting a hat-trick in the tournament after victories in 2013 and 2014, opened with a two-under-par 68. The defending champion, Beth Allen and the 2015 champion, Céline Herbin, both shot first rounds of one-under-par.