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Q&A WITH U.S. OPEN CHAMPION & COYOTES FAN CRISTIE KERR

Monday, 08.13.2007 / 12:34 PM / Features
By Heath Price-Khan
2007 has been a magical year for LPGA standout Cristie Kerr, with her first major victory at the U.S. Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in North Carolina. This week, it gets even better as she starts her defense of the CN Canadian Women’s Open by playing in the Pro-AM with Coyotes Managing Partner, and Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. PhoenixCoyotes.com caught up with her as she prepared to defend her title in Edmonton at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club.

PhoenixCoyotes.com: How did you become a Coyotes fan? Were you a hockey fan before you came to Arizona, or did you just start getting into it after you arrived here?

Cristie Kerr: I was born and raised in South Florida, and really started getting into hockey when the Panthers made their Stanley Cup run. It’s a really great sport to be there in person, and cheer for the team that you want to win.

PC: Are there any other big hockey fans on the LPGA tour?

CK: Absolutely, A.J. Eathorne is a Canadian who lives in Phoenix. Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel are big fans as well.

PC: Golf seems to be a sport that comes naturally to many hockey players which can certainly be attributed to their great hand/eye coordination. You obviously share that trait. So how good a hockey player could Christie Kerr have been?

CK: (Laughs)…..Probably not very good. I’m not very coordinated with sports other than golf.

PC: As a hockey fan, what will it mean to golf with Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton? I think it is a safe bet there will be a sizable gallery.

CK: It’s a fantasy, and a dream come true. I’ve gotten to know Wayne and his wife Janet over the last year. They’re huge golf fans, and I am a huge hockey fan. Obviously he is “The Great One”, so it does not get any better than that!

PC: Have you seen Wayne swing a golf club before?

CK: Only on TV. He looks like he enjoys the game. He does not look like he stresses out too much about trying to be the best at golf. He just enjoys the game, and likes to be competitive.

PC: Will you be giving him any tips while you are out there?

CK: Only if he asks.

PC: You won the event last year, so Canada has been good for your game. How many strokes would you have to give “The Great One”?

CK: I don’t know, I think he might be sandbagging. He said he’s an 18 handicap, but I have to believe he is better than that.

PC: While we are on the subject of golf, you won your first major this year at Pine Needles. How does it make you feel when I say……”Cristie Kerr U.S. Open Champion?”

CK: I wanted to win that tournament since I was a little girl. One of the reasons I actually started playing golf was to win the U.S. Open, so this is a fantasy.

PC: World #1, Lorena Ochoa also just won her first major, so now who is recognized as the best player on your tour to never win a major?

CK: That’s a hard question. A lot of the young players have only won a couple tournaments, so you have to look at Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, and Brittany Lincicome. There are a lot of really good American players now.

PC: A lot of our readers may not know much about some of the personalities on the LPGA tour. Is there anyone who is a practical joker, someone who keeps people loose in the locker room, or on the course?

CK: There are a lot of people like that; I’m a little like that. Pat Hurst, one of my friends who lives in Phoenix, and has been on the Solheim Cup team many times, she is a real fun person to be around.

PC: Now to a more serious topic. You have a foundation called “Birdies for Breast Cancer”. Talk a little bit about how that got started and what it means to you.

CK: Getting the news that my mother had breast cancer, and knowing that she held it from me for two weeks until after I played the U.S. Open in Oregon in 2001, was very difficult. A year went by and she went through her treatment, and I just felt helpless. I did not feel like I was in control of the situation, and just had to wait and see with my family. That’s what motivated me to start the foundation. It’s called “Birdies For Breast Cancer”, because I give money for every birdie I make, and my sponsors contribute as well. We’ve been in existence since 2002, and have had four events. We have raised over $450,000. Every event we have done, we have given back to the local community, and our event is now in Scottsdale, and we have partnered with the Mayo Clinic. Through our partnership with Dr. Pinku, we have gone in the lab to see what they are doing, while talking to the doctors. We like to give the money to the grass roots organizations that are really going to make a difference.

PC: Is there a way for fans out there to contribute by sponsoring you for the birdies you make?

CK: Absolutely!! The website is under construction, but you can go to www.birdiesforbreastcancer.com and click on “Make a Pledge”. You can make a donation per birdie, or a flat donation, it just depends on what they would like to do. People should know that we are a tax exempt 501c3 non-profit organization, so any donation is tax deductible. It’s real easy for people to get involved. Before, it used to only be me, but we will have a team of LPGA players to make a pledge for. Natalie Gulbis, Kelli Kuehne, and Morgan Pressel will all be involved.

PC: That’s Fantastic! Final question, any predictions for the Coyotes this season?

CK: I leave those predictions to my husband because he knows a lot more about hockey than I do, but I am hoping they will have a good run.
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