PINEHURST, N.C. — Kevin and Brittany Kisner learned the due date of their first child, consulted the calendar and received a jolt – U.S. Open week.
They didn’t need that.
They didn’t need the drama of Kevin, a professional golfer of increasing promise, playing in one of the year’s biggest tournaments with his wife’s pregnancy a distraction. And Brittany didn’t want to be sitting at home in Aiken wondering about delivering a child and cheering for her husband.
Remember 15 years ago and the theater surrounding Phil and Amy Mickelson in the same scenario – expecting their first child during U.S. Open week, also at Pinehurst?
No, the Kisners didn’t need all those questions swirling this week.
Their decision: If Kevin qualified for the Open, they would induce labor on Monday. Kevin could play without his mind drifting from golf to his family, and Brittany would not fret over the consequences of too much stress in rooting for his success.
The result: Kathleen Grace, 7 pounds even, arrived Monday, Mom and daughter are home doing fine and Dad is in Pinehurst competing in the 114th U.S. Open. Brittany, he said, “looked great, like she was ready to go to church” after the delivery, and it goes without saying what he thinks about the baby.
“This is what we planned a few months ago,” Kevin said after shooting a 5-over-par 75 in Thursday’s first round of the Open. “She didn’t want to have to be concerned should I be doing well in the tournament. If I hadn’t made the Open, we would have waited” for nature to take its course.
One drawback: Kisner did not arrive at Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 restored course until Wednesday morning and his practice round consisted of 12 holes before an afternoon storm washed out play for the remainder of the day. The lack of on-site preparation did not contribute to his 75, he said, and besides, “The baby is way more important than any golf tournament could be.”
His golfing life has been a whirlwind in recent weeks and his schedule coupled with Kathleen’s arrival added to the non-stop agenda. Somehow, his 6:56 a.m. tee time, the second group of the day, seemed appropriate Thursday.
“Let’s see,” he said of his schedule. “I’m playing for the fifth straight week, and that’s too much for me. But you don’t turn down the Memorial” – he earned a last-minute spot in Jack Nicklaus’ event – “or the U.S. Open. Plus, after the Memorial finished on Sunday (June 1 in Ohio), I flew to Memphis and played 36 holes to qualify for the Open on Monday. Then, we had so many delays in the Memphis tournament; we started play the last three days at 7 a.m.”
Those starting times meant reveille at 4:30 a.m. Friday-Sunday. Then, the alarm sounded at the same time on Monday to go to the hospital and again Thursday to make his tee-off time in his first major championship.
“Maybe I can get some rest (Thursday) afternoon,” he said.
But before rest, he spent time on the putting green and the practice range with instructor John Tillery, and he came away “feeling so much better” about my swing.
Kisner began on No. 10 Thursday and struggled early, going four over par on his first seven holes. A double-bogey 6 on the long 16th after a three-putt bogey on 15 put him on the brink, but he did not let the round get away. He played his final 11 holes in one over par.
“I hadn’t seen (holes) 13-18, but my caddie (Duane Bock) knew the course, so (lack of familiarity) didn’t matter that much,” he said. “If I could take back a couple of shots” – an overly aggressive sand shot on 16 and a missed short putt on No. 2 – “I’d be fine. I still think I can get back in the tournament (Friday) if I can shoot a couple under par.
“The thing is, I wanted to take double-bogey out of play, and that sand shot on 16 stayed on the green a long time before rolling off into a terrible lie. I couldn’t get up and down. Then, the putt . . . I just went blank mentally. I tried the rest of the round to get back to a couple over par, but I couldn’t make a putt.”
Nevertheless, confidence will be his ally Friday and he can go on sizzling streaks; he followed a 76 in the Memorial with four straight rounds in the 60s. Plus, he believes Pinehurst No. 2 is a “momentum course” and a good start would work wonders.
“Talk to me tomorrow after I shoot 65,” Kisner said, laughing.
But he wouldn’t be thinking about that Thursday night. The loves of his life at home at Aiken are foremost in his dreams.