(Editors note: Kira Kazantsev is playing in this years AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. This is a story ACES Editor Dennis Miller wrote on Kira in 2016).
Kira Kazantsev was the 2015 Miss America, but she is also an avid golfer, advocate on women’s issues, personal branding expert, speaker and blogger.
Kira has contributed writing pieces to Huffington Post, USA Today, and has appeared on HuffPost Live’s Domestic Violence Awareness: Making Campuses Safe panel, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Live with Kelly and Michael, Jimmy Kimmel, Access Hollywood, Extra, Inside Edition, thousands of local news outlets, and many more. She has also presented awards at the American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music, American Country Countdown, and the Billboard Music Awards.
During her year as Miss America, she served as the National Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, advocated on behalf of her personal platform: Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Protecting Women Against Domestic Violence, and was the first Miss America since 1971 to travel overseas, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, and South Korea with the USO to visit our troops.
Kira studied Political Science, Global Studies, and Geography at Hofstra University Honors College and graduated in 2013. She also speaks Russian and Spanish.
Following is one-on-one interview Dennis Miller of ACES conducted with Kira relating to golf.
How did you get into golf?
Kira: I started playing at three with my father. I was born in Martinez at County Hospital. My parents are Russian Immigrants and my Dad is a surgeon (currently at Kaiser-Oakland). I grew up in Walnut Creek and played for Las Lomas High at Boundary Oak golf course. I played here and there during my college years at Hofstra.
What got you back into the game?
Kira: When I won Miss America, the Director of Security asked me if I played golf. He had been asking every Miss America for 20 years and I was the first that played! He asked me if I wanted to play in the BMW Charity Pro-Am (Web.com Tour event) and I jumped at the chance.
You have stayed with it since then?
Kira: Yes! Since then I have been taking lessons and practicing a lot. I play 3-4 times a week, either practicing or playing nine holes. I still have a long way to go, but I am getting there.
What is it about golf that draws you in?
Kira: I find that it challenges you as a person. I seem to be one of very few women that does it for fun. I am hoping I can encourage more women to get out and play. It is a great game that I really enjoy, is a great way to exercise and is incredible for personal development. You can meet people on the course and develop your business skills.
What is your favorite course and what course do you still want to play?
Kira: I love the Kapalua Course on Maui and all those courses in South Carolina – the Reserve at Lake Keowee. I want to play Pebble Beach – that is on my bucket list, but I’m not ready for that yet.
What are you playing to and where do you need the most work?
Kira: I am an 18-19 handicap right now, which is not the worst thing in the world. When I was 12-13, I was a scratch golfer and was playing pretty good. Right now it is just some certain things in my swing. I have a check list in my brain of what I need to do – I need to build my technique back and I will get there. When I first started playing again, I thought, I have missed this and that makes it easier to get out and practice.
Who makes up your dream foursome?
Kira: That’s easy – Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. I got to meet Annika once at a tournament. She is a very nice person.
What’s more stressful – walking down the runway in the Miss America or standing over a 10-foot putt for par in a tournament?
Kira: Wow! There are definitely similarities between the two, but honestly golf is more stressful. There are so many things that can go wrong in golf. I mastered Miss America! I have a green jacket in the form of a crown!
By Dennis Miller
Cover photo: Matt Boyd Phoography