S.F.’s Kazant­sev, Miss Amer­ica in 2015, and part­ner make cut

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Ron Kroichick Ron Kroichick is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: [email protected] sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @ronkroichick

PEB­BLE BEACH — Kira Kazant­sev counts as one of the first-time, fresh-faced am­a­teurs in this year’s AT&T Pro-Am field. She brings a back story with deep Bay Area ties — born in Mar­tinez, at­tended Las Lo­mas High in Wal­nut Creek and now lives in San Fran­cisco.

And also: She was Miss Amer­ica in 2015.

Kazant­sev has been an ad­vo­cate for women’s causes — most notably, against do­mes­tic vi­o­lence — since earn­ing the crown in Septem­ber 2014. She also has done work in mar­ket­ing and as an am­bas­sador for Chil­dren’s Mir­a­cle Net­work Hos­pi­tals.

All along, Kazant­sev har­bored a pas­sion for golf. She started play­ing at age 3, be­came ac­tive with the First Tee of San An­to­nio when her fam­ily moved to Texas and worked on her game at Bound­ary Oak in Wal­nut Creek af­ter re­turn­ing to the Bay Area.

Kazant­sev played on the golf teams at Wal­nut Creek In­ter­me­di­ate and Las Lo­mas, un­til peer pres­sure prompted her to turn away.

“Golf was weird — it wasn’t cool for girls to do it,” she said. “It was just not en­cour­aged as it should have been. I quit be­cause I wanted to be a cheer­leader in­stead. That’s my big­gest re­gret in life.”

Kazant­sev, 27, at­tended Hof­s­tra Uni­ver­sity and lived in New York City when she won the Miss Amer­ica com­pe­ti­tion. She even­tu­ally came to re­al­ize she could carve out a ca­reer in golf: She’s host­ing a show on Golf Chan­nel, called Golf Ad­vi­sor Liv­ing, which will make its de­but later this month.

Kazant­sev also pro­vides U.S. Open cov­er­age for the USGA and does work for Tiger Woods’ charity foun­da­tion. Her in­ter­est and abil­ity to play the game have helped in these var­i­ous en­deav­ors.

“I tell people how much life ad­vance­ment I’ve got­ten out of golf,” she said. “For ex­am­ple, in my job at Chil­dren’s Mir­a­cle Net­work Hos­pi­tals, be­cause I can play golf I can go out on the course with our board mem­bers and our CMO and be part of that con­ver­sa­tion.

“That’s where de­ci­sions are made, and that’s where cre­ativ­ity hap­pens.”

Kazant­sev is one of 10 fe­male am­a­teurs in this year’s AT&T field. That’s an all-time high af­ter nine com­peted last year; as re­cently as 2015, only two women were in the field. That did not re­flect well on the tour­na­ment.

Kazant­sev, a 16-hand­i­cap, teamed with pro part­ner Ryan Ar­mour this week — and they were tied for 18th af­ter Satur­day’s third round, good enough to make the cut and ad­vance to Sun­day.

Li up­date: Mike Davis,

chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the USGA, did not of­fer a timetable on when the or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­pects to make a de­ci­sion about Red­wood City teenager

Lucy Li’s am­a­teur sta­tus. “I know our people are try­ing to get the facts from Lucy and Ap­ple,” Davis said Satur­day.

Li, 16, re­cently ap­peared in an ad­ver­tis­ing video for the Ap­ple Watch. That seemed to vi­o­late golf rules on am­a­teur el­i­gi­bil­ity, but the USGA has not yet is­sued a rul­ing.

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