Riding a streak of 52 holes without a bogey, American Cristie Kerr captured the LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey by three shots over three players.
Kerr, who has now won 19 times on the LPGA Tour, fired a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, after a 10-under-par 62 on Friday on the Ko Olina Golf Club, to leapfrog the third round’s overnight leader Su-Yeon Jang.
“It feels amazing,” she said of her win. “You know, on Friday morning I wasn’t playing too well and then I just found something and was able to turn it on and I just kept it going. I can’t remember two and a half days after I struggled with my swing feel, and then made so many birdies in my life. It was an unbelievable run.”
Kerr’s four-day total of 20-under 268 broke the tournament record. She earned $300,000 – moving her into fifth on the 2017 LPGA Official Money List – pushing her over $18 million in her career (she sits third on the LPGA Career Money List).
The 39-year-old Kerr becomes the second American to win on the LPGA Tour this year after Brittany Lincicome at the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. She said that she had an ineveritant run-in with some wildlife Friday that may have given her some good luck.
“I didn’t even think about it until after I shot 10-under (Friday) that turtles are really good luck for me. They always have been. I went swimming with the turtles on Friday afternoon and I inadvertently touched one,” she said. “The patrols are out there so that you don’t harm them, but it kind of swam at me and I touched it, and it was really, really good luck.”
Kerr’s longtime Solheim Cup teammate and fellow American Paula Creamer doused Kerr with champagne on the 18th green after her win was made official. With the win, Kerr moves into the top 10 in the Race to the CME Globe, and, is within six points of qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame.
“I’ve always thought about it,” she said of the Hall of Fame. “I’ve come this far and I don’t plan on quitting golf any time soon. Sky is the limit. If you shoot for the stars you may get to the moon. That’s the old saying.”
Jang, who was in the field thanks to a sponsors exemption, held the lead for most of Saturday until Kerr made three-straight birdies on the back nine and pulled away from the pack. She managed to battle back after a double-bogey on the par-3 8th.
Jang’s starting to get a knack for the golf course at the LOTTE Championship, having finished fifth here a year ago and now tied for second.
Tied with Jang and In Gee Chun was World No.1 Lydia Ko, who fired rounds of 65-64 on the weekend. Her 8-under-par 64 was the round of the day Saturday.
“With how the girls are playing, it’s just really hard to mend the gap,” said Ko, who was eight shots behind going into Saturday’s finale. “Considering where I was after the first day, I’m pleased with where I finished.”
Canadian Alena Sharp finished in fifth alone, after a tough bogey on the 72nd hole dropped her out of the runner-up position, but still, her fifth-place result was her best of 2017.
“I started off really well. Adrenaline was flowing,” said Sharp. “I was right there all day.”
So Yeon Ryu continued her torrid start to 2017 and finished alone in sixth. Through six events on the LPGA Tour this year, her worst finish has been a tie for seventh. Her lead widened slightly in the Race to the CME Globe after notching another fine result.
Ariya Jutanugarn, who remains just behind Ko in the Rolex Rankings and Ryu in the Race to the CME Globe, finished at 14-under, and was tied with Stacy Lewis for 7th place.
The LPGA Tour is off next week before heading to the Lone Star State for the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout presented by JTBC in Irving, Texas on April 27th.