Kingsmill a special place for Cristie Kerr to celebrate first Mother's Day as a mom

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Valley fever was Cristie Kerr's self-diagnosis. Months of persistent aches and relentless fatigue. Months of struggling to extract herself from bed, let alone walk 18 holes.

Arizona residents such as Kerr are well-versed in the malady, a lung infection caused by inhaling a fungus common in dry climates.

But an infection wasn't exhausting Kerr. A blessing was. And is. And will for years to come.

His name is Mason, the child Kerr and her husband, Erik Stevens, feared they never would have.

"Definitely a long time coming," Kerr said.

Which makes this Mother's Day, Kerr's first as a mom, all the more special. Adding to the moment: She, Stevens and their son are spending it at Kingsmill.

"I can't imagine a better place," Stevens said.

Kingsmill, you see, is where Kerr has won three LPGA tournaments and this week aims for a fourth. And Kingsmill is where Kerr has forged an enduring bond with her host family: Mike and Linda Whittaker.

"She's just become our daughter," Linda said. "It's as simple as that."

Kerr's most recent Kingsmill victory came last May, when she defeated Suzann Pettersen in a playoff. It was an emotional moment for Kerr, the first of her 16 Tour wins witnessed by her father.

But Kerr didn't share all of her emotions that Sunday afternoon. She didn't share that she was expecting.

Not in the traditional way, mind you. Married in 2006, Kerr and Stevens long tried to have a child. But an endometrial deficiency prevented Kerr from conceiving and steered them toward surrogacy.

"You take it for granted," Kerr said of conception. "Oh, it will just happen."

Kerr is 36, hardly too old to carry a child. But in her mind, the biological clock she once mocked was starting to tick.

With the means to afford first-rate medical care and legal counsel, Kerr and Stevens found a carrier for their child. Mason arrived Dec. 8.

"A lot of times it's like, 'Here's the baby, goodbye,'" Kerr said of the dynamic between surrogate and parents. " I couldn't imagine doing that. … We've had a great relationship with her and her family. They've got a beautiful family as well. I think that all stems from insecurity, and I think you need to find the right person to do it for you in the beginning."

Kerr and Stevens envision a lifelong connection with the surrogate.

"It will be pretty cool," she said. "We don't have a ton of family, so it's kind of nice in a way. … (Mason) will know I would have done it if I could have, but (that) there was somebody in the world that God gave to us that was able to help us and bring him into the world."

Mason's offseason arrival gave Kerr and Stevens time to adjust in their Scottsdale home rather than on the road. But even at home, a professional golfer's world is steeped in routine, and children are meant to disrupt all routines.

A newborn's 24/7 needs drained the rookie parents, to the point where Kerr wondered, "What is wrong with me?"

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