A relaxed, jovial mood spread like a blanket over the driving range at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, N.J., last Friday as LPGA Tour players mixed with celebs and amateur players in preparation for a charitable scramble. You would never have known it was just a few days before the Solheim Cup, the biggest international battle in women's golf. Christina Kim had forgotten her contacts at home in Orlando and was adjusting to swinging in glasses while drop-kicking drives that duck-hooked like missiles into the mounds on the range. Helen Alfredsson was rubbing the sleep out of her eyes (she'd arrived from Sweden the night before) to take pictures with Hercules. And more than a few other players frequently stopped their warm-ups to turn around and gaze at the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty right across the Hudson River.
The only competitive words spoken were of the good-natured-ribbing variety. "Why are you wearing a sweater, girl? It's so hot," Cristie Kerr called out to Alfredsson as she walked by. "Obviously, I don't think so," Alfredsson responded in a fake-snarky voice. Kerr: "Obviously!" Alfredsson: "Ooobviously!" Then laughter. Next week, the tone will be different. Next week, these girls will be fierce enemies fighting for the most coveted cup in women's golf. But on a day like this, they were good friends.
When Kerr's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, it prompted the major champion winner to start "Birdies for Breast Cancer," a non-profit organization through which she and a few of her LPGA colleagues donate $50 per birdie (and $100 per eagle) they score in competition to breast-cancer research. Six years later, Kerr's mom is in remission and her daughter's little charity project has grown to include the Birdies For Breast Cancer Charity Golf Classic and raise in excess of $750,000 for the cause.
On Friday, Liberty National played host to the fifth annual BFBC pro-am, and a sold-out amateur field of 36 foursomes got to play golf with celebs like Kevin Sorbo (the aforementioned "Hercules"), Matthew Settle of "Gossip Girls" and NFL player Troy Brown, as well as LPGA Tour players such as Alfredsson, Kim, Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lincicome. The merriment didn't end with golf: after post-round cocktails and a gala dinner, a poker tournament sponsored by Audemars Piguet rounded out the evening, where the most coveted prize of the day, a $35,000 Audemars watch, was to be given away. (However, when all was said and done, the four amateur card sharks left at the final table decided to split the honor of the win and give the watch back to the charity. Bravo.)
The proceeds of this year's event will help fund the new Cristie Kerr's Women's Health Center at Jersey City Medical Center, the first facility in Hudson County to provide free breast-cancer screenings to uninsured women.
The women of Hudson County are much obliged.