A Conversation with LPGA Champ Cristie Kerr
The defending champ of the Kia Classic talks women golfers and wine
Cristie Kerr is returning to San Diego this week | Photo: Getty Images
This week professional golfer Cristie Kerr returns to San Diego to defend her title during the 2016 Kia Classic at Carlsbad’s Aviara Golf Club and Resort. We spoke with the highest earning women’s golf star about women in the golf industry, her nonprofit breast cancer research organization, and wine.
You started your golf career at age nine. What changes have you seen in the industry, specifically for women?
It’s definitely become a more lucrative sport for women golfers and a more global sport. We have over 50 countries competing every week to win a tournament. When I first came out on tour, it was predominantly just Americans. Now it’s Norway, China and all the Asian countries, Canada. They just had a Canadian winner last year. That was the first time someone from Canada had one in five years. It’s pretty cool.
Where have you looked for inspiration throughout your career?
Both my parents were kind of like the athletes that almost made it and never did. My dad played baseball and my mom was a swimmer. They inspired me to take up sports, and golf is the one that stuck.
Golf aside, you also launched your own wine business in 2009. What inspired you to start it?
I’ve always had a love of wines. I visited Napa Valley for more than 12 years and made a lot of friends with vintners and winemakers. I bought a lot of wine, tasted a lot of wine. I loved the process—from grape to bottle—and I was interested in doing it. So I wrote emails to some of my best friends in the wine industry to see if there was any interest in starting a project with a very high-end wine, with profits going to breast cancer research. Suzanne Pride from Pride Mountain Vineyards was the one who took on our project. She is a breast cancer survivor so it was a natural fit.
Your wine was served at the White House! How did you feel when you heard that the President would be sipping your wine?
It was pretty awesome. Pride Mountain Vineyards has been served there numerous times and they exclusively, as they should, serve American wines at the White House.
We got the introduction to Daniel Shanks, the sommelier at the White House, when we went on a Solheim Cup Tour. He cornered me and said, “You have two minutes, go.” I told him the whole story and he asked for some samples. We found out later that our 2007 Cabernet was served at a state dinner for Angela Merkel. It was pretty awesome.
Your organization Birdies for Breast Cancer raises money and awareness for breast cancer research. What motivated you to launch it?
In 2003, my mother was diagnosed and we started a modest program where I gave $50 for every birdie, and I still make a personal donation every year. Over 12 years we raised over $3.5 million, we have a hospital center, and a lot of my friends are pitching in to help.
You’re a busy woman, but when you do have free time, what do you love doing?
I like to hang out with my family and do family things. I’m kind of a homebody, I love to cook and obviously love wine.
Any advice for working women?
If you have a dream, believe in it. There are never any shortcuts to being successful. You have to work hard every day to make a dream come true, but in the end it’s all worth it.