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Kia Classic defending champion Cristie Kerr, right, speaks with the media on March 9 about the tournament and her philanthropy at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Kerr focused, ready for Kia Classic

CARLSBAD — As one of the most decorated players on the LPGA Tour, Cristie Kerr has parlayed her success outside the course.

But next week, the 20-year tour veteran will be focused on claiming her second consecutive title at the seventh annual Kia Classic at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad. The tournament begins at 7 a.m. March 24 and runs through March 27.

Last year, Kerr won the title by two strokes over Mirim Lee with a four-day score of 20-under par.

This year’s field, meanwhile, features 144 of the top LPGA players.

Kerr, though, took part in the tournament’s annual media day on March 9 detailing how after a strong start to the season, she experienced a dip before rebounding to win a late-season tournament for her second victory of the 2015 campaign.

In addition, she also switched clubs two weeks before her last victory, although Kerr said the change didn’t affect her game.

“I got to work on the driver and keeping in the fairway because the roughs are huge here,” she added. “I just got to make sure my scoring clubs are really accurate.”

As for next week, she is focused on the challenging course at Aviara. While her driver is longer, she said staying out of the thick rough is paramount to keeping a low score.

But as the old cliché goes, drive for show and putt for dough. Kerr knows it will be the strength of her putter if she is to hoist the trophy for a second time.

In total, Kerr has 18 career wins including two majors, 160 top-10 finishes and is third all-time on the LPGA career money list with more than $17 million.

“I do like this place,” she said. “The golf course is awesome and solid, it’s tough. The wind, the layout, there is always rough. You have to know the course, where to hit it, where to miss it.”

And while Kerr is focused on adding to her career wins and money earnings, she also is a model for philanthropy.

In 2002, Kerr’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she eventually beat, so Kerr started Birdies for Breast Cancer in 2003. Her aunt and godmother also battled the disease.

Since the charity’s inception, the organization has raised more than $3 million. In 2010, the not-for-profit partnered with Jersey City Medical Center, which created a comprehensive center specializing in women’s health issues.

Her drive for women’s health, and breast cancer, found another source of revenue in 2009, when Kerr launched Curvature Wines in partnership with Pride Mountain Vineyards. A lover of wine, it was a natural fit for Kerr and all proceeds from the winery are donated to Birdies for Breast Cancer.

“I’ve always had a love of wines,” she said. “I was interested in doing it.”