WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — Cristie Kerr likes being emotional on the golf course, and knows there’s a time and place for it.
She almost jumped the gun in the Kingsmill Championship before getting it back together.
Kerr made a short par putt on the second hole of a playoff against Suzann Pettersen on Sunday, then hugged her caddie, a few players who stayed around to watch and had one more hug she needed to give.
“Where’s my dad?” she asked during the celebration on the 18th hole at Kingsmill’s River Course.
Her father, Michael Kerr, was on his way — as fast as his motorized cart would take him.
“I rarely get nervous when she plays,” the career school teacher who has had both knees replaced 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 16th career victory was her third at Kingsmill, and the first that her father got to see in person. He stayed with her throughout her round, then figured his cart couldn’t keep up in a crowd, so he found a place to watch.
When he got to the green after the finish, a big hug and many tears awaited.
“This was the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said.
His daughter made it so with a refusal to lose, even after 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.
But she almost let herself start choking up in celebration before she had reason.
“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.
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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