Talk about crazy. Talk about wonderful. Brittany Kisner can, and does, in the same sentence in looking back to find words to describe a week in June a year ago.
She gave birth to her and husband Kevin’s first child. Wonderful.
His job, professional golfer, called him away the day after the big event to compete in the U.S. Open, one of his sport’s most prestigious championships. Crazy.
“Our first child, his first major (tournament) and a big step in his career all at the same time,” Brittany said in reflecting on the week that changed their lives. She laughed and said, “I didn’t know what was going on.”
A year later – “It’s amazing how fast it’s gone by,” she said – Kate has turned 1, complete with diving into a pink birthday cake to celebrate, and Kevin has zoomed from promising to prominent on the PGA Tour.
A correlation between fatherhood and job performance? A cause and effect?
“I don’t know; he has put a lot of hard work into his golf game,” Brittany said. “But things are good. He has a happy, loving family waiting for him no matter how he plays.”
Kisner, 31, is in the state of Washington to compete in the U.S. Open that begins Thursday at Chambers Bay, no longer just another name on the entry list but the 55th ranked player in the world. Mom and daughter are watching this one from their home in Aiken, but they’re never far from his off-the-course thoughts.
“Fantastic,” Kisner, a star at South Aiken High and All-American at the University of Georgia, said in describing the year in both personal and professional terms. “They have traveled a lot with me, and it’s cool to have them waiting for me after I finish. If you think about it, I’m a typical dad. I go to work, get the job done the best I can and come home to the family. It’s just that my job is professional golfer and different from most.”
Still, the lure of family waiting has changed his habits. Rather than hanging around the driving range or putting green for a couple of hours after a round or a practice session, he heads home.
“He’s very hands-on,” Brittany said. “He’s pretty good at diaper duty, and it’s so nice that we can be together. So much revolves around his schedule, and Kate is a great little traveler. The way he comes home from the golf course really puts things in perspective.”
At the 2014 Open at Pinehurst, N.C., one reporter waited for Kisner after his opening 5-over-par 75, an understandable score considering he managed to play only 12 holes in his lone practice round. A cluster gathered a day later, thanks more to having his father Steve handle the caddie duties on the 18th hole than his place on the scoreboard.
At the 2015 Open at Chambers Bay, Kisner’s name is mentioned in potential champion discussions, and his recent record shows why. Ranked 236th in the world at the start of the year, he’s now No. 55 thanks to a streak of four top-10 finishes in his last six tournaments. He has played those 24 rounds in 69 strokes under par.
During the streak, he has finished second twice in playoffs thanks to outstanding play first by Jim Furyk at Hilton Head and then by Rickie Fowler at the Players. Kate made her television debut, first in mom’s arms during play and then in dad’s during post-tournament meetings with the media.
“Kevin made all the shots,” Brittany said. He twice birdied Harbour Town’s 18th hole, once to tie Furyk in regulation and again in the playoff to force Fuyrk to match him. At the Players, he answered the pressure with superb shot after superb shot only to see Fowler make one more putt.
“I did everything I could in those two tournaments,” Kisner said. ‘That’s the kind of stuff I live for, to be in the moment and pull off the shots. I can look back and remember that I missed some makeable putts in the middle of the (final) round at the Players, but I don’t dwell on it. I do what I can; if I keep playing the way I have, I’ll win sooner or later.”
He maintained the pace in his past two starts, a tie for fifth in the Colonial and a tie for eighth in the Memorial, and he credits improved ball-striking, the fruit of his labors in his two years of working with instructor John Tillery. That in turn sent his confidence climbing, and he said, “If I play the way I can, I love to be in contention to see what I have.” He paused and added, “One of these days, I’ll make the (winning) putt.”
Brittany watches, more for the excitement of watching her husband compete at a high level rather than with anxiety. She knows that she can’t change anything on the golf course. Home matters most, and that part of their lives is, a year later, less crazy and more wonderful.