Wednesday

Cristie Kerr - Concentrating on Golf, Grapes, and Giving

Cristie Kerr would be exceptional even without golf. That's something one absolutely knows within about seven minutes of meeting her. ~ And the seven minutes only come into play because the girl is a consummate listener.

So here's Cristie Kerr... a beautiful young woman and a world champion golfer - someone who's taken the sport to the highest level... yet she's still so genuinely interested in what others have to say. ~ I'll admit, I was quite surprised by that when I first met her.

It was just about a year ago, and I was babbling on talking about the growth of golf online, pointing things out on my MacBook, and despite my somewhat... um, rambling... overview, Cristie remained totally engaged. She didn't need to say anything... her unique, aquamarine eyes revealed an attentiveness that left no doubt. She had taken in every detail of my presentation, and only then did she present me with her succinct reaction.

I've witnessed similar exchanges numerous times over the past year. It's the way Cristie is with everyone, from the young waiter at a cafe to the top level executives at tournaments.

Today is the day before the start of the U.S. Women's Open at Pennsylvania's Saucon Valley Country Club and Cristie has a lot going on.

As the 2007 U.S. Women's Open Champion - and the only American to have won the cup since Meg Mallon in 2004 - Cristie loves this tournament. And she knows the 2009 trophy is within her grasp, despite... or perhaps because of... the extremely challenging characteristics of Saucon Valley's "Old Course".

Its extreme length - 6,740 yards - makes it the third longest in Women's Open history... the copious bunkers and narrow fairways make it the kind of challenge the intrepid Ms. Kerr actually relishes.

The kind of challenge she doesn't relish...none of us do... is the one being presented by the current global economic downturn. For the LPGA it's resulted in the recent loss of several tournaments...and a tenuous future for others.

Then, this past Monday, there was the story on GolfWeek.com of a letter that came out of a recent meeting attended by Cristie and several other top players. It reportedly requested the resignation of LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. This has caused an inevitable feeding frenzy among the golf press, some of whom almost appear to delight in the prospect of an LPGA cat fight discord within the LPGA.

At the USGA press conference yesterday Cristie set the tone with a prepared statement in which she acknowledged the collective curiosity surrounding the current state of the LPGA, but asked that at this USGA hosted event, the conversation be brought back to “the U.S. Open or questions about myself and my golf and perhaps my wine making.”

Cristie's unwillingness to turn the U.S. Women's Open into a referendum on the future of the LPGA earned her the immediate ire of Steve Elling, senior writer for CBSSports.com, who clearly would have preferred to see a melee break out. He referred sarcastically to pampered American princess, Cristie Kerr, and her all-encompassing, inestimably important wine making venture.

Knowing Cristie as I do, that line just made me laugh. Obviously Mr. Elling has never met Cristie Kerr, nor been exposed to her relentless energy and determination on and off the golf course. Cristie is in fact developing a wine as she mentioned, but there's nothing "arrogant and selfish" about her efforts as Elling suggests. 100% of profits will be going to Cristie's foundation, Birdies for Breast Cancer. And that's where the giving comes in.

Birdies for Breast Cancer
, the foundation Cristie started for her spirited, cancer-survivor mom, Linda, has earned almost $700,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness and prevention.

Last night Cristie hosted a special event at Melt restaurant's Level Three not far from Saucon Valley CC. The benefit raised money for the foundation, and for Lehigh Valley Hospital's Breast Health Services. Cristie has another event...a charity golf event...planned for August at the awesome Liberty National Golf Club that overlooks the New York City skyline.

In addition to everything else, we're finishing up the last details on Cristie's new website which will be officially launched, along with her blog, at the end of the week. That way Cristie can keep you posted on what's going on in her life - on course an off - and the way things are looking, there won't be a dull moment.