CHAMPIONS
Kerr Finds Winning Ways With Women's Open on Horizon April 17, 2017 By David Shefter, USGA

Cristie Kerr will look to win her second U.S. Women's Open this summer. (USGA/John Mummert)

Just when you think Cristie Kerr’s best golf might be in her rear-view mirror, the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open champion delivered two sensational rounds of golf that made it clear the 39-year-old Florida native isn’t finished winning.

Kerr found something before Friday’s third round – the Lotte Championship presented by Hershey at Ko Olina Golf Club in Hawaii was contested from Wednesday to Saturday – that led to a course-record 62 to put her within three strokes of 54-hole leader Su-Yeon Jang.

After four holes on Saturday, Kerr found herself five back, only to rally with four birdies on her back nine en route to a bogey-free, 6-under 66 and a three-stroke victory over world No. 1 and 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Lydia Ko, 2015 U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun and Jang.

Her 72-hole total of 20-under 268 also broke the tournament record.

It was Kerr’s 19th LPGA victory, but her first since the CME Group Tour Championship in 2015. Six months ago, she underwent knee surgery, leaving some to wonder if she could regain the same form that produced not only her Women’s Open title, but also a win in the 2010 LPGA Championship.

One of the fiercest competitors in women’s golf, Kerr is now only six points shy of automatically qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame.

“I’ve come this far and I don’t plan on quitting golf any time soon,” said Kerr. “[The] sky is the limit. If you shoot for the stars you may get to the moon. That’s the old saying.”

Perhaps a run-in with local wildlife provided Kerr with good karma to finish strong in Hawaii.

“I didn’t even think about it until after I shot 10 under (Friday) that turtles are really good luck for me,” said Kerr. “They always have been. I went swimming with the turtles on Friday and I inadvertently touched one. 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 played her final 52 holes without a bogey in becoming the second American to win on the LPGA Tour in 2017, joining Brittany Lincicome, who took the season-opening event in the Bahamas.

The celebration on the 18th green included a dousing of champagne from 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion and longtime U.S. Solheim Cup teammate Paula Creamer.

Winning a second U.S. Women’s Open title a decade after she claimed victory at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. would not be historically unprecedented. Meg Mallon won her second Women’s Open in 2004, 13 years after first winning the title in 1991 at Colonial Country Club in Texas.

Molinari Ends Long Drought

Edoardo Molinari, the 2005 U.S. Amateur champion, produced his first European Tour victory in seven years,  denying Paul Dunne of his first title at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.

The 36-year-old from Italy carded eagles on Nos. 12 and 18 for a final-round, 5-under 68 to force a playoff with Dunne, who competed for Great Britain and Ireland in the 2015 Walker Cup. A par on the first playoff hole – the par-5 18th – was good enough to give Molinari his third career title when Dunne missed a 6-foot par putt. Molinari had been struggling since winning twice in 2010. He’s had to make two trips to the European Tour Qualifying School to keep his card, but this victory earned him full playing privileges through the 2019 season.

“It’s fantastic,” said Molinari, who defeated Dillon Dougherty in the championship match at Merion Golf Club to win the  U.S. Amateur. “I’ve been through some very hard times with injuries and bad form. To be able to win this week deletes a lot of bad memories and hopefully I can keep going down this road.”

“It just shows that you should never give up, you should always keep trying, keep working hard.”

High Honors for McNealy

Stanford University senior Maverick McNealy added a prestigious honor to his portfolio last week when the 2015 USA Walker Cup and USA World Amateur Team competitor was named the recipient of the 2017 Byron Nelson Award.

To be eligible for the award, a player has to be a graduating senior and the selection committee not only considers results but also his character and integrity.

McNealy, who re-claimed the No. 1 spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ with reigning U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck turning professional after the Masters, is currently tied with Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers for the most wins in Stanford history with 11.

He’s also in contention for a second Walker Cup invitation after being invited to the pre-selection practice session for the 2017 USA Team last December at The Los Angeles Country Club, site of this year’s Match. The two-day competition is scheduled for Sept. 9-10.

“It is an absolute honor to be the recipient of this award, one that carries on Mr. Nelson’s legacy,” McNealy said. “I am humbled to be thought of as an exemplar of what he stood for, and his example will continue to serve as a great model in golf and life. I look forward to the challenge of representing and upholding the values of this award to the best of my abilities.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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