A Conversation with

Cristie Kerr

Cristie Kerr has been at the top of her golf game for 15 years. During her time on the course, the Miami-born athlete has taken 14 wins on the LPGA tour including two major championships. She抯 been the top ranked female golfer in the world and still maintained a sense of charity, by starting her own Birdies for Breast Cancer foundation.

Here, the golf pro tells us how she got her start in the game (note: she was only 7), what those less athletically inclined can do to improve their skills, and how she would style a Cristie Kerr salon. The added bonus? She抯 an Oribe fan.

What made you first take an interest in golf, and when did you realize you could make a career of it?
My parents used to take me to the course when I was a young girl while they played. I would fish or play while they were on the course. One time when I was about 7, they gave me a cut-down 7-iron to keep me occupied, and when they came back, they saw I was hitting it more than 100 yards. I broke 80 by the time I was 10, and broke par when I was 12. That抯 when my parents knew there was something to pay attention to.

What are three keys to your success?
Golf is like a lot of other businesses: It takes hard work and sacrifice. For me, success is about balance. I have to sacrifice my personal life, at times, for my golf career匢t抯 justifiable self-centeredness, and what is necessary in some sports pursuits. I was blessed with natural talents, but in golf, hard work beats talent when talent doesn抰 work hard. That saying has stuck with me.

Where is your favorite golf course?
Needles in North Carolina is special to me because I won the US Open there. Kingsmill in Williamsburg, Virginia, I have always loved卆nd I won twice there. Places off our tour I love are Pebble Beach courses, Trump National in West Palm Beach and Liberty National in Jersey City.

What are a few golfing tips for those less experienced? What kind of clubs do you use?
Be patient and invest in an experienced coach or partner who can introduce you to golf in a comfortable way. Golf is intimidating at every level because there is so much focus on scoring. I tell people to focus on the experience and the process and not so much about the score.

I use Callaway Golf Irons, Ping Woods, Scratch wedges and an Odyssey putter. I play the clubs I like and don抰 necessarily align with one manufacturer.

After spending much of your career at the top of your game, how do you push yourself to keep improving?
I have learned that there is no final place to get to when you achieve goals. I thought I wanted to be a top-10 golfer, then the top American and then the top golfer in the world.

When I achieved those goals, I realized that the real pursuit is challenging myself to be the best I can be, not comparing myself to the status of other people. One of my favorite sayings is, 揟he greatest obstacle to great is good. I don抰 like to settle for good.

Based on your success, what tips could you offer a business owner like a salon owner looking to improve a company?
I think the qualities I抳e seen in my golf that transfer to successful businesses are hard work, attention to detail, teamwork and communication. Golf is very much an individual sport, and like being a stylist or salon owner, it can seem like it抯 you against the world.

I treated golf like that when I was younger and realized that was a difficult route. Surrounding myself with a good team, agents, coaches, sponsors and having a healthy dialogue helped me to reach my goals. I think many business owners try to take on so much that they hurt their ability to relate to their staff and their consumers.

You抮e highly involved with charity giving, and even host your own Birdies for Breast Cancer celebrity golf classic. Tell us a little more about the project.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, and it was a devastating point in my life. I started my personal mission to donate money for every birdie I made on tour to breast-cancer causes. It caught fire with other sponsors and fans donating, and before I knew it, I was meeting with Evelyn Lauder about bigger causes and events.

To date, Birdies for Breast Cancer has raised more than $1 million, and this year, we opened the Cristie Kerr Women抯 Health Center in Jersey City Medical Center, which will be New Jersey抯 most comprehensive center to treat both insured and uninsured women.

A number of Oribe salons value charity giving. How could a salon get involved with a project like yours or start their own?
I think the best way is to act locally and give locally卆nd talk to your customers. We used to give money we raised locally to national organizations, and we learned over time that we had better success to give money we raised to local, community programs.

Your website features notes on wine tasting. What are your favorite types of wine, and what wines should salons offer their clients?
I like all types of wine, and I am studying for my Level 1 sommelier test. I tend to favor California Cabernet blends, Oregon Pinot Noirs, Australian Shiraz, California and French Chardonnays and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We made a wine this year with Pride Mountain Vineyards; Suzanne Pride is a breast cancer survivor. The wine is called Curvature, and all the proceeds benefit breast-cancer research.

I think salons can have fun with introducing different wines to their customers perhaps partnering with a local wine retailer to have a wine 揻eature of the week to keep customers engaged.

You have a great wardrobe for your matches. If you were to open a salon, what would the stylists wear?
I might not have a dress code, but I would want them to express their individual style while having a boundary of taste and neatness. For me, black is a staple, and a dash of color and bling always works.

What are your favorite Oribe products?
Supershine Moisturizing Cream and Imperm閍ble Anti-Humidity Spray.

You grew up in Miami, where Oribe lives. What are a few of your favorite places there?
My favorite places in Miami are the Miami Beach area, the Delano, Shore Club, Joe抯 Stone Crab restaurant and local favorites, like The Grove.

What is your current state of mind?
I抦 in a very happy place right now, but our lives, my husband抯 and mine, are very full. At times, it can be overwhelming, but overall I feel very blessed that I have a life that affords me opportunities to touch other people and feel inspired by those connections.

- JILL HILBRENNER

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