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