Cristie Kerr is in her 20th season on the LPGA Tour, a career that has seen 18 wins including two major championships. The 38-year-old Florida native has made eight Solheim Cup appearances (earning a 15-14-5 record) and was honored with the 2006 LPGA Komen Award for her charitable efforts towards breast cancer research through her foundation Birdies for Breast Cancer. After welcoming son Mason via a surrogate in 2013, the busy mom has not slowed down with her career, securing two wins and six other top-10s in 2015 despite caddie and coaching changes.
Let’s look back on your 2015 season. How would you rate your performance?
I played great. I didn’t perform week in and week out as consistently as I liked, but I got two wins and a bunch of top-10s and I think I finished sixth or seventh on the money list. So I played very well last year.
We’re about halfway through the 2016 season now. What’s been the most exciting thing to look forward to this year?
This is the second year with my caddie, Greg [Johnston], and I thought we did a great job last year. Got a couple of wins together. And I’m just looking forward to the challenges of golf — I love playing golf, I always have, and I want to play more consistently this year and hopefully try to get a few more wins.
That must have been a difficult change, switching caddies after on and off years with Jason Gilroyed.
Yeah. Having a new caddie definitely was a transition. We got off to a bit of a slow couple of weeks, and then we got a win. So, you know, that’s kind of golf for you. [Laughs] I think it’s going to be a great year for us, our second year together. I’m looking forward to those challenges.
Talk to me about golf coming back to the Olympics, and what that means to you.
I’m looking for a few things for myself this year in preparation for the Olympics. I keep bringing up playing consistently and that’s definitely one of my goals for this year. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself. I’m also trying to work out more, getting in better shape. I have a lot of things going on in my life, but the Olympics is one of my primary focuses and to do that I know I have to play good golf consistently.
What are your thoughts on the Zika virus in Rio?
There are definitely things in each of the regions you go to that you have to be careful with. We got to Thailand and Singapore, and in Thailand there’s a lot of malaria. The Zika virus in Rio, that’s on everybody’s mind. You have to try and be as prepared as you can be. Obviously there are things that come up that you can’t prepare for, but going into it, if you can try to be informed with what’s going on in that particular area that you’re going to, that’s the best you can do.
What will it mean for the sport of golf, and more specifically women’s golf, to return to the Olympics?
I think it’s going to bring women’s golf to a whole new level. It’s such huge media and television coverage. It’s just a bigger stage for us, and we deserve to be on that stage. We deserve to get covered more. I don’t think people realize how good the golf is and the golfers are on our women’s tour. So definitely, it will bring a lot of attention to our tour and we’ll be ready for it.
Is there anything you can do personally to engage current fans and draw in new fans that goes beyond playing good golf?
As a player, especially with social media, there are a lot of things that we can do. Before, as players, all we could do was play golf. Now, we use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat…all that kind of stuff. We all have websites, charities. Our primary job is to play good golf, but all of that is part of the job now — to get yourself out there, help to build the tour up and try to elevate the stage for women’s golf.
If you had to choose between a gold medal, a Solheim Cup and a major, what would you choose?
At this stage in my career, because I’ve won a Solheim Cup and I’ve won a major, I would say winning a gold medal. [Laughs] I haven’t done that yet, so winning a gold medal would be the thing I haven’t achieved. That would be pretty awesome.
What specifically would help you achieve that medal?
Making sure I’m mentally strong everyday. Thinking and doing things, in that respect, that I need to. Not wasting time or just kind of hitting balls just to hit balls. I’m trying to do everything with a purpose this year to give myself the best chance to make this team and to try to compete to win a medal.
What’s do people not know about professional golfers that you think they should know?
I think what people don’t know about us is kind of how hard our job really is. They don’t understand that we travel internationally at least 12 weeks a year. All the travel, the toll that it takes, the packing and unpacking…a lot of people think that what we do is very glamorous. To us it’s work — and you know, it’s a dream and it’s an amazing thing, but it is very difficult and a grind at the same time. A lot of people might say, ‘Oh, woe is you, you have it great’ and we do. We’re living our dream, we’re playing great golf, but it is also not quite as glamorous as people think it is.
If you could take away one thing from your time on the LPGA Tour so far, what would it be?
If I could take away one thing from my time on the tour, over many year — I mean, this is my 20th year on tour! All the amazing memories that I’ve had.
Winning the Kia Classic in 2015 was my first win as a mom…my son ran out and gave me a hug, and that was pretty awesome. My caddie had just lost his father and wasn’t there the week before. So when he came back I just got it done. I got it done for everybody and that was a great memory.
You think about the wins, because you know, you try to forget about all the rest, but I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of tournaments and have a lot of great memories.