My name is Kira Kazantsev and I am so excited to be the host of Golf Advisor’s new show, Golf Advisor Living.
As the show unfolds, you’ll get to see beautiful places, gorgeous homes, and unique ways to live a golf lifestyle. Speaking of “golf lifestyle,” what does that really mean? Well to me, it means something different to everyone. It’s your own unique interpretation of golf’s role in your life and how you incorporate it into your every day. Because let’s face it, golf is more than just a game, it is truly a way to live. Before we get to the show, I would love the opportunity for you, the Golf Advisor family, to get to know me a little bit and I hope you will join me on this exciting journey with Golf Advisor Living!
Some of you might know me as a former Miss America, but before my shiny crown days, 28 years ago, my parents immigrated to the United States from Russia and I was born about a year later. To my dad, who had never picked up a golf club, playing golf was an American rite of passage. So in between working himself to the bone as a surgical resident and supporting a family, he went to the driving range. And my staunch, quiet, Russian surgeon of a father found that golf was an excellent way to spend time and connect with his three-year-old little girl. So we played golf. And then I really played golf. We are talking traveling for tournaments, lessons, clinics, and practice almost every day. To my parents, it was everything. To me, it became a chore and I burned out in high school. Realizing that other kids thought it was weird was the last straw. I quit.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of my biggest regrets in life.
However, because I started at such a young age, I never quite lost my swing and I always knew how to play. I would still get out on the range from time to time and once in a blue moon, dad and I would play.
As luck would have it, the security director of the Miss America Competition is also the security director of the BMW Pro-Am in Greenville, SC on the Web.com Tour. As I came off stage after winning Miss America, Rodney grabbed my hand and asked “Do you play golf?” a question he has asked many Miss Americas and the first time in many years, he heard a quickly blurted out “yes” as I was whisked away to my post crowning press conference. Rodney made it his mission to get me to play in the Pro-Am. He believed whole-heartedly that more women should be playing and he didn’t care that I hadn’t seriously touched a club in years.
To my surprise, when the tournament confirmed my participation, I decided that if I was doing this thing and going to play on TV, mind you, I had to practice when I could in the months leading up to the tournament. I dragged my tour managers to driving ranges and muni golf courses on tour stops all across the country. I coupled my Disney World appearances with lessons at the Disney golf course in Orlando, and during my USO tour, my tour-mate Dennis Haysbert, who coincidentally was also playing the pro-am, brought his pitching wedge on the C-17 cargo plane trek to visit troops around the globe and was my seatmate for the journey. In fact the two of us got to play the Navy golf course with a few Naval officers on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and we even checked out the “Most Dangerous Hole in the World” which is a tee box in South Korea from which you can shoot over into mine-covered North Korea.
By the time I got to the tournament in Greenville, I was certainly nowhere near ready, but I had the most wonderful and patient playing partner in Kevin Tway, and the whole experience reignited my serious passion for golf and took me back to magical childhood feelings of nailing an excellent drive, or dropping a 30-foot putt for birdie. I was hooked and I was never going to leave the game again.
Post Miss America, I moved to Los Angeles with dreams of being an entertainment news host. And it went well for a bit. Simultaneously I was playing in a lot of golf events or hosting them, learning more about golf, meeting people in golf, making golf a part of my every day lifestyle through business meetings and a way to relax and spend time with my now fiancee. Consequentially, I realized that maybe entertainment news wasn’t for me or I wasn’t for it. Either way, through an unlikely turn of events and the most roundabout way possible, I found my way back to golf after all.
Today, my golf lifestyle entails fitting in a twilight nine or a weekend 18 between travels when I can. I also quite enjoy the occasional “walk the course with a small speaker blasting chill tunes and sipping on a beer or rose.” Sometimes my golf lifestyle can get crazy and by that I mean playing with the likes of Gary Player, Rocco Mediate, Jerry Kelly, Tom Lehman, and Jesper Parnevik. I once even got a chipping lesson from Tiger Woods (all in a day’s work, right?) My golf colleagues have become my close friends and when I see them at events, we are like family. I’ve gone on incredible trips with my girl-golf gang to the Hamptons, the Bahamas, and beyond, forever redefining the term “buddies trip.”
One of my biggest struggles in playing consistent golf is that it can be difficult to find a community to play with and a community of women in particular. But through some really cool life developments, I’ve become part of a family of golf industry women that just get it and are a huge part of my golf lifestyle. I’m so lucky to be among them as we navigate growing the game for women in particular.
I have had the opportunity to play some really sweet tracks over the last few years. My favorites include but are not limited to:
The special thing about many of these properties is the feeling that they evoke when you walk into the clubhouse, the smile that spreads across your face as you see someone pulling out of their garage in their tricked out golf cart, and the sheer visible joy that the residents at many properties have is simply infectious. Most people that call a golf course home have worked really hard to get there. They have chosen to live on one of earth’s most splendid gifts and the tight knit communities that are subsequently created are a true gem to behold. To me, THAT is the essence of the “Golf Lifestyle”: the community that it creates.
I am beyond thrilled to be welcomed into many of these communities across the nation and to show the world just how special they are. Stay tuned, Golf Advisor fam! It is going to be one heck of a ride.