Kira Kazantsev grew up in the Walnut Creek area before going on to win Miss American and now a regular on the celebrity golf trail! ACES had a story on Kira when she was just becoming known as a golfer Kira Kazantsev – Miss America and a golfer! Now she’s taking on the American Century Championships – the biggest celebrity golf tournament of the year!
Earlier this year she played in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am along side of Alfonso Ribeiro, making the cut. Wednesday she sat alongside Ribeiro and met the media at Edgewood in advanced of the tournament that starts Friday.
Following is their press conference:
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Kira Kazantsev and Alfonso Ribeiro.
Q. Talk about the experience of playing in (the AT&T) and talk about Kira’s golf game?
KIRA KAZANTSEV: So, imagine this, you’re at a chain restaurant eating crab in Orlando on a Saturday. You
get a phone call from the tournament director of the AT&T Pro-Am saying, hey, somebody dropped out.
You want to play in the AT&T at Pebble Beach? I was, like, okay. So I got on a plane and — luckily I live in San Francisco — and I drove down on Sunday night. Monday morning I walked onto the range, said hi to this guy, got Patrick Reed warming up behind me. There’s Phil. Hey, what’s up? And, yeah, it was a whirlwind experience, completely life-changing. Extremely educational both for my golf game and just for myself as a golf media professional. And I couldn’t be more thankful to the folks at the AT&T. And thankfully I had Alfonso here. So that type of stage is really intense. And I’ve been on many stages, but this was a completely different ball game. And
there was some emotional turmoil to work through. And Alfonso was, like, girl, you all need to breathe. But, yeah, it worked out.
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: I’m actually going to take full credit for her playing in the AT&T. Steve John, the tournament host, called me up a few, maybe two weeks before the tournament, and said, hey, we’re looking for somebody fun, cool, who knows how to, like, have a great time, will be great with the pros, great with the fans. I said I’ve got one person and I know who she is and she’ll come. I can guarantee you she will drop everything. So I mentioned her name to Steve. So I’m taking the credit for it because I can.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: Right here.
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: But, like, one of the things — we’ve played a lot of golf together so I know her game. And as we were out there playing, I noticed how tense she was, you know? She got off in the beginning, but then she was just, oh, my God, oh my God. I was, like, you know what? They don’t care. That’s the one thing that you realize is we all put so much expectation on our own game that we forget thatthe audience doesn’t really care; they’re just happy that you’re there and that you’re having a good time. So, as long as you’re having a great time, they’ll have a
great time and they won’t know the difference between a great shot or not a great shot; just keep having fun.
So we kept doing it. So for three days, you know, it was like — I saw that I was not going to make the cut with my partner. So I was like I just really want her to make the cut. Like it became my total focus. I was like I’m going to do
everything I can to make sure that she stays in every hole. And she did great, made the cut. Got hailed on on
Sunday, not so much fun. But I was very proud of her also. To play in the AT&T first year, making the cut was cool.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: Yeah, I’ll never forget, there was a moment on the first day, on the back nine at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. I hit a good chip to within two feet of the hole. And Alfonso came over to me and was, like, you belong here, kid. Don’t forget that you belong here. And for me, that they held me over for the rest of the
week and has continued to be the thing in the back of my mind, because people see you on social media, you think you’ve got all this stuff going on, but you have a lot of tremendous self-doubt. So then you have that voice in the back of your mind that you belong here, you can do it and hang and compete, no matter how good of a golfer you are.
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: And that evening, our host, Jon Miller, texted me and said, hey, you’re playing with Kira. You think she might want to play? I said, listen, I can tell you without asking her, yes, she’s in, I’ll make the connection.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: So here we are. Hello.
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: So here we are. (Laughter) I’m like her agent.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: All publicity requests, please refer to Alfonso Ribeiro.
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: And I’ll make sure she gets it.
Q. Kira, talk about your debut here?
KIRA KAZANTSEV: For me, for my debut, so, I’m born and raised in the Bay Area, in Walnut Creek. And my parents have had a home in Lake Tahoe for years. So I’ve grown up coming to Tahoe every summer and every winter and consider myself a bit of a local. And when you know so much about Tahoe, you know about the Tahoe tournament, the ACC, the stuff of legends, stuff of myths. Only the coolest people get to be here. And then all of a sudden I’m here, and it’s, like, oh, my God. So I’m really excited.
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: You belong here. I’m already watching the tension rise (laughter). You belong here.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: We’re breathing. Thank you. So I’m very, very excited — I got to play a practice round yesterday. It’s a tough course. Some of those greens are a little slippery.
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: Yes they are. And they’ll get faster.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: Fabulous. But I’m just excited to be here and have a good time. And I’m so thankful to the NBC Sports family and ACC and Harrah’s and Harveys and everybody for having faith in me and bringing me on as one of four women in the tournament. And I’m very proud to be there.
Q. Curious how of you got your start in golf and what keeps you hooked on it today, not just this event but even beyond. What keeps you out there working on your game?
KIRA KAZANTSEV: For me, my parents are Russian immigrants. And I think my dad saw golf as, like, this American thing that their kid should do. So as a three-year-old we went on a vacation to Florida, and we played golf. And it just became this thing. You play golf. And I grew up in very, very serious junior golf — San Antonio Junior Golf Association. We lived in Texas for five years. And traveling the state and doing all these crazy tournaments. Then we came back to California, I was 12, 13, and that’s the age of girls when things start to become less cool or if something is different. It just wasn’t a great environment for me to continue cultivating that skill. And I held on to it through high school. But it wasn’t cool anymore, which is like the dumbest thing ever. And I had those fundamental skills because I started so young. But by the time I made it to high school I was kind of over it, burnt out. Fast forward, I became Miss America. Now when you’re Miss America you get invited to a lot of cool stuff. And I wasn’t just there as a guest; I could actually pick up the golf club and swing and had a decent swing, because I still would go to the driving range once in a while with my dad. It was just a thing we did together as a family. So here I am at the BMW Pro-Am in Greenville, South Carolina, with this guy. He’s a big part of my entire —
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: Here I am again, in the story (laughter).
KIRA KAZANTSEV: Alfonso is a constant theme, a constant theme. And I played probably really poorly. But it was this —
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: No, you played pretty well. That ractice round, you lit it up.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: Okay, you heard it here first. You heard it here first. I remember that practice round, but then TV time, not so great.
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: I wasn’t there to help you through it.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: True. But I realized during that round that not only — obviously I love being a media personality and I love speaking and doing on-camera work, but I very much love golf. So it turned into this natural marriage of a niche field that I find myself to love, to feel very comfortable in. I love the people. And as a professional — I’ve been a part of so many business meetings that I had no business being a part of simply because I could play golf, because I could swing, because I could speak the language. And it’s the one thing that I always tell parents: Get your kids into golf, get your kids into golf. It’s a game-changer. It levels the playing field. And it constantly challenges me. I’ll never be as good as I want to be, and I love that because it’s something to strive for. And that’s why I keep coming back, and I get to do things like this. Why wouldn’t you want to continue to work on your game and be as good as you