WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — Cristie Kerr watched her short winning par putt fall on the second hole of a playoff against Suzann Pettersen, hugged her caddie, a few players who stayed around to watch and had one more hug she had waited a long time to give.
“Where’s my dad?” Kerr said during the celebration Sunday on the 18th hole at Kingsmill’s River Course.
Her dad, Michael Kerr, was on his way — as fast as his motorized cart would take him.
“I rarely get nervous when she plays,” he said. “I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. This was the most nervous I have been. It wasn’t just the playoff. It was the last three holes. Honestly, I was in the bar drinking, which I don’t normally do.”
Kerr’s victory in the Kingsmill Championship, the 16th of her career and third in the event, was the first one with her dad present. A Vietnam veteran and career school teacher who has had both knees replaced, he stayed with her throughout her round, then took the cart to the bar, figuring he couldn’t maneuver well enough to keep up in the big crowd.
“For the last 17 years, I’ve been dreaming of watching her win a professional tournament,” he said. “It was a dream come true. If I never see anything else in my life, this was it and this was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
His daughter made it so with a refusal to lose, even when she failed to cash in on her best shot of the day, an approach on the first extra hole that left her with a 6-foot putt to win. It never even touched the cup, sliding by on the right.
“I wasn’t going to lose, not today, not with my dad here,” Kerr said.
She almost let the prospect of having the moment take it away.
“I thought about it a little bit more like before I hit that first putt in the playoff,’” Kerr said of her desire to win with her father watching. “I thought about it a little more and I got a little emotional. Maybe that’s why I pushed it and didn’t make it.
“The second time, I was going to make sure, ‘OK, I can think about that after. Let’s take care of what we’ve got to take care of right now,’” Kerr said she told herself. “Emotions are good, though. We need emotions to play good.”
Kerr closed with a 2-under 69, and Pettersen had a 67 to finish at 12-under 272 on the River Course.
The final pairing had a Solheim Cup feel to it, but Kerr was pleased with the way she stayed within herself.
“I was really just proud of the way I tried to tend and take care of my own game today, especially with Suzann,” she said. “She likes to try and intimidate people out there, but I’m not really easily intimidated so I just took care of my own game.”
Pettersen, whose first career victory came in a playoff at Kingsmill in 2007, had won at Hawaii in a playoff a few weeks ago, and lost for only the third time in eight career playoffs. She didn’t stick around for the celebration.
“I had a chance to win outright on 18 in regulation and I hit a good putt,” Pettersen told LPGA officials when reached by telephone. “Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose in the playoff, but there was a lot of good to take from it.”
It was the second year in the row the tournament ended in a playoff.
Last year, Paula Creamer and Jiyai Shin played the longest two-player playoff in tour history — nine holes — before Shin won. The victory came Monday morning, after the two played the 18th hole eight times in a row Sunday night.
The playoff format was changed for this year, with the plan to play No. 18 three times, then move to the par-4 16th, where Shin finally won last year, but Kerr made sure the huge gallery that lined the closing fairway got to see it end.
The finish turned into a two-player battle after looking like it might get wild.
Ariya Jutanugarn, the Thai 17-year-old who led after the first two rounds, made five birdies on the back nine in a 66 to surge into a tie for third with Ilhee Lee, who closed with a career-best 67.
Angela Stanford also had a share of third until the final hole, when she lipped out a short par putt for her first bogey in a closing 69. She shared fifth place with Stacy Lewis, who closed with a 70.
At one point, Pettersen led by a shot, with Kerr, Jutanugarn, Lee and Stanford all one back.
Kerr led most of the day, but when she missed the 14th green to the right, Pettersen hit her approach close. Kerr’s sidehill chip left her a long two-putt, and Pettersen’s birdie created a two-shot swing and put her in front at -11.
Just as they walked off the green, Lee’s third consecutive birdie moved her to 10 under, and Jutanugarn’s fifth birdie in six holes also got her to minus 10. Moments later, Stanford rolled in an eagle putt on the par-5 15th to also get to minus 10.
The former champions wasted no time separating themselves again.
Kerr had a chance to regain a share of the lead at No. 15, but her makeable eagle putt slid just by on the left, and she and Pettersen both had short birdie putts, giving the leaders some breathing room.
Kerr, who made several tester putts to save par during her round, pulled even on the par-4 16th, rolling in another from inside 10 feet for birdie after Pettersen’s longer birdie attempt missed.
Both parred in, with Pettersen’s long birdie try at No. 18 missing right by half an inch, and Kerr having to make yet another tester, this one from about 6 feet, to force the sudden death playoff.
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