Sergas, teen Creamer finish a shot back
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Cristie Kerr didn't look at the leaderboard, didn't ask her caddie who was ahead, didn't wonder about who was behind her.
Standing on the 18th green, with a chance to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic, she tried to focus on the 8-foot putt in front of her.
"I knew that I was close," Kerr said Sunday. "I said to myself, 'It doesn't mean anything unless you can execute the shot.' So that's what I did."
With playing partner Paula Creamer and Giulia Sergas sharing the lead with her at 10 under par, Kerr needed to pick up a stroke. She made the birdie putt, boosting her to 11 under par and the victory.
"The putt was just an amazing, amazing under-pressure stroke that I made. I got a good read on it and it was perfect," she said.
"It's the stuff you dream about."
With 17-year-old amateur Creamer already in the clubhouse, all Kerr had to worry about was Sergas, who was playing in a twosome behind her. Kerr was about to head to the practice green to prepare for a playoff when her caddie told her she'd won.
The victory, which came with a $195,000 check, meant more than money.
"This was a little bit of mental breakthrough for me, this round and this tournament, because I came from behind to win. I handled the adversity well," Kerr said.
Kerr, shot 66-68-68 for a three-day total of 11-under 202 to win her third LPGA title, finishing on a breezy Seaview Marriott Resort course.
Creamer (69) and Giulia Sergas (71) finished one shot back at 203, followed by Juli Inkster (67) and Mi Hyun Kim (69) at 204.
Denise Killeen, who held a two-shot lead going into the final round and was hoping to win her first LPGA event since joining the tour 12 years ago, shot an 8-over 79 Sunday and finished seven shots from the top.
Creamer, vying to become the first amateur to win an LPGA title since Joanne Carner in 1969, used a hot putter to shoot 7 under Saturday. She started Sunday four shots back.
But she missed birdie putt after birdie putt Sunday, including the clincher on the 508-yard 18th hole.
"I was so nervous on that putt," said Creamer, of Pleasanton, Calif. "I knew I had to make it. I think I pushed it out harder than I should have."
Kerr, 26, who won the LPGA Takefuji Classic in April, had her difficulties, too. She bogeyed her first hole Sunday before shaking off a case of the nerves and posting six birdies.
She nearly fell out of contention after missing an 18-inch comeback putt to take a bogey on No. 12, and then a 10-footer on the par-3 No. 14 to drop to 9 under.
She missed a birdie opportunity on the 17th hole, leaving a downhill 5-foot putt about a foot short.
Coming into the final hole, she was tied with Creamer and Sergas, who was playing in the group behind them. Driving into a stiff wind, Kerr landed her tee shot in the fairway and landed her approach shot just past the pin, setting the stage for the birdie putt.
After she hit it, Kerr jumped up in the air and pumped her right fist before walking over to Creamer and giving her a hug.
She hadn't won yet. Minutes later, Sergas arrived on No. 18 with a chance to win if she birdied. But her approach shot landed in the rough right of the green and she couldn't make an 8-footer for birdie.
That clinched Kerr's victory, which came at the same event in which she played her first tournament as a professional in 1996. She didn't make the cut that time.
Gallagher-Smith serves up ace
Jackie Gallagher-Smith had a hole-in-one Sunday.
Gallagher-Smith used a pitching wedge to ace the 101-yard par-3 13th hole at the Seaview Marriott Resort course. She shot a 64.
It was the second ace at No. 13 in the three-day tournament. Tracy Hanson did it Friday, also using a pitching wedge.
Gallagher-Smith, 36, has four aces during her 10-year LPGA career.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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