Cristie Kerr on PGA Tour Players Whining at Liberty National, ESPN Mag’s "Body" Issue and the Future of the LPGA
By Stephanie Wei under General

I caught up with LPGA Tour player Cristie Kerr at an outing in NYC last week. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

You are a member at Liberty National. What did you think of the bashing it took from the PGA Tour players during The Barclays? It sounded like a lot of them hated it.

Liberty is a first-rate facility. You can’t beat the views. The layout of the course is fantastic…The Firemans are very good friends of mine.

I think [the course] was [criticized] because it was set apart and [the PGA players] are used to being able to shoot 8-under every day. I happen to love the layout of the course. I think there are some changes that Dan and Paul Fireman know they have to make, like the 7th green not running away so much and some bunkers here and there. I think the spirit of the course and the way it plays are tough. And I think the guys weren’t used to having to pitch out of the rough; they weren’t used to a 7-iron releasing 8 to 10 yards. In that sense, it’s easy for a lot of players to bash the course.

The guys are just used to shooting nothing at a golf course and that’s not how the Firemans and Liberty wanted it to play. They wanted it to play like a major championship course, so that’s how they set it up — the rough was up, the greens were fast. Those are the best male golfers in the world and I think they can handle that.

Gary Player said it best: lt’s like going into somebody’s house, eating their dinner, talking to their family, and then insulting the wife’s cooking, the house, the decor, telling them the food was terrible — you just don’t go to some place and do that. [Ed. note: Yikes!]

If there are things you don’t like, then so be it; everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But some of the best golfers in the world had really good things to say, like Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els — they’re major champions.

What do you think about the LPGA players posing for ESPN Magazine’s “Body” Issue? Do you think it’s good or bad for women’s golf?

I got interviewed for [the article]. But I didn’t get a good look at it. You can take the positon of it being good or bad. I think we definitely need the exposure; we need good, positive PR. I think it was done tastefully from what everyone was telling me, so I think that’s good for the LPGA. I think that’s why they did the article because it’s controversial; it creates a lot of buzz in the media marketplace.

What do you see for the future of the LPGA? Do they need to do a better job marketing the players? Like the Asians, for example?

Well, I think it’s the responsibility of the organization to market the players. [They should] do vignettes, stories and let the fans know who the players are and get to know them. A lot of the Korean and Japanese players they do so much for charity and you know, they need to build those stories up — just as they do for my foundation, for instance. I think the future of the LPGA relies on restructuring the organization, getting the new commissioner in place that’s going to be able to take us to the next level and from there, focus on marketing and PR.

You know, the telecasts are a big thing for us. There are rain delays and no one wants to see last year’s tournament. They should do stories on the players — like Katherine Hull for instance, she’s a very avid surfer and into charity — why not build that up?

When you said, “take [the LPGA] to the next level,” what do you mean by that?

I think it’s just the total package because we’re playing as good as we’ve ever played and we probably have the most undervalued product in the sports marketplace right now. [We need to] get our play to match up with the TV, the marketing and PR. It’s going to get to a point where it tips, and that’s where we need to get to. Give us 3 years.

[Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images]