[Editor's note: Cristie Kerr, a member of Team USA in the inaugural LPGA International Crown, to be played July 24-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club, will be blogging for The Baltimore Sun about her experience.]
Hello from across the pond!
We have reached the halfway point in the LPGA schedule, and there is some great golf being played by a lot of gals out here. The Ricoh Women's British Open marks our third major of the year and second major in the past three tournaments leading up to the International Crown at the end of the month.
This was my 14th time competing in the Women's British Open since it became a major championship on our schedule. Although I had to withdraw because of illness, it still is an honor to play on one of the best golf courses and alongside the best female golfers in the world.
Women's professional golf has changed a great deal since my first British Open. The purse, for one, has doubled in size since then to $3 million with the winner taking home nearly half a million dollars. This speaks greatly to how far women's golf has come in the past 14 years and specifically in the past five years under the leadership of Michael Whan. This year's total prize money on tour is a new record high, and I think that is a reflection of the work Mike has done, including adding new, innovative events like the International Crown and our season-long Race to the CME Globe, a cumulative point competition much like the men's FedEx Cup.
One of the biggest movements on the tour over the past decade has been the rise of the young talent. When I first began competing on tour in 1997, there were hardly any teenagers out here. I was the exception. Not anymore. Now you look around and see girls with talent for miles and at such a young age.
The International Crown will set the stage for this movement and will allow the entire world to see some of these talented young players like Lexi Thompson, 19 (United States), So Yeon Ryu, 24 (Republic of Korea), Minjee Lee, 18 (Australia) and Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, 18 and 19, respectively (Thailand). I have been on Tour as long as some of these girls have been alive!
That said, being on tour for 18 years has given me a lot of opportunities outside of golf as will it some of the younger girls down the line. In 2003, I was able to start my own breast cancer charity, Birdies for Breast Cancer, which to date has raised over $3 million for breast cancer research and awareness in support of the Cristie Kerr Women's Health Center, a branch of the Jersey City Medical Center, which provides care and women's health services to the community of Jersey City, N.J., regardless of their ability to pay.
My success on tour has also allowed me to start my own wine label, Curvature; it's a partnership with Pride Mountain Vineyard, proceeds from which also benefit breast cancer. In 2007, we were served in the White House at a state dinner. This past year, our 2009 cabernet sauvignon received a 90-point rating from Wine Spectator magazine. In the next year we plan to release three more wines, something I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams 18 years ago when I began my golf career straight out of high school.
The International Crown will help increase the profile of our young stars and give even more opportunities than I've had, or ever imagined I would have, to make a difference. I, for one, think that's very cool.
What: Inaugural biennial women's team match-play competition pitting eight countries, each represented by a four-player team
Where: Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills (par 71, 3,405 yards)
When: July 24-27
Purse: $1.6 million
Tickets and more information: lpgainternationalcrown.com