Cristie Kerr made the most of her trip to Florida last week by cruising across Alligator Alley for a pre-Thanksgiving homecoming in Miami. To show how Kerr’s priorities had changed, the 38-year-old working mom was most thankful not for her latest career victory, but for her 2-year-old son riding in the car seat on his way to visit grandma.
Linda Kerr is losing her vision to macular degeneration, but watched intently as her daughter won the CME Group Tour Championship and her grandson scurried across the 18th green into his mother’s arms at Tiburón Golf Club in Naples two weeks ago. She could see what everyone sees—the difference in Cristie.
“I think it’s great that she does have a family,” said U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster of Kerr. “I think it’s really matured her. She was amazing at the Solheim Cup, not only on the golf course, but off the course. It showed her there’s more to life than just golf.”
Mason Kerr Stevens is proof that motherhood can work on an LPGA Tour dominated by the millennial generation. As one of only five moms in the top 100, Cristie Kerr has become a rare but inspiring example to other players that they can have a robust playing career and a family, too.
While Inkster won 16 times, including two majors, after having her two daughters, some Hall of Fame careers have ended early after players put family ahead of their profession. Annika Sorenstam retired at 38 and Lorena Ochoa at 28. Each had a first child a year later.
Kerr’s circumstances are different in that she was diagnosed with Endometrial Deficiency, preventing her from carrying a child through pregnancy. She and her husband, Erik Stevens, went through a surrogate to have Mason.
“Wins as a mom,” Kerr told me, “are more special than before.”
Wins at 38 are special also, especially when both came with Lydia Ko, the 18-year-old LPGA Player of the Year, in contention. At the Kia Classic in March, Kerr broke a 42-tournament winless streak by shooting 65 to beat Ko and long-hitting Mirim Lee of South Korea. In Naples, Kerr outplayed Ko by seven strokes for her 18th career victory.
But if you ask Kerr, her biggest win in her 19th year on tour came in September during Sunday singles of the Solheim Cup. Three down after four holes to 19-year-old Charley Hull of England, Kerr reeled off nine birdies in 11 holes to win a pivotal match in the U.S. comeback. The respect she gained was reflected in teammates Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lang and Gerina Piller waiting around to douse Kerr with champagne on Tiburón’s 18th green.
“It feels great to prove to everybody that golf doesn’t know an age,” Kerr said as she motored along. “Hopefully I can win in my 40s as well.”
One of Kerr’s goals for 2016 is to represent the U.S. at the Olympics in Rio. She also hopes to be voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame after becoming eligible at age 40. Meanwhile, Cristie and Erik are talking about having more children, so Mason can have company at the trophy ceremonies.
Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the Nov. 30, 2015 issue of Golf World.