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July 10, 2019

Alfonso Ribeiro

Kira Kazantsev

Stateline, Nevada

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Kira Kazantsev and Alfonso Ribeiro.

Q. Talk about the experience of playing in that event and talk about Kira's golf game?
KIRA KAZANTSEV: So, imagine this, you're at a chain restaurant eating crab in Orlando on a Saturday. You get a phone call from the tournament director of the AT&T Pro-Am saying, hey, somebody dropped out. You want to play in the AT&T at Pebble Beach? I was, like, okay.

So I got on a plane and -- luckily I live in San Francisco -- and I drove down on Sunday night. Monday morning I walked onto the range, said hi to this guy, got Patrick Reed warming up behind me. There's Phil. Hey, what's up?

And, yeah, it was a whirlwind experience, completely life-changing. Extremely educational both for my golf game and just for myself as a golf media professional. And I couldn't be more thankful to the folks at the AT&T.

And thankfully I had Alfonso here. So that type of stage is really intense. And I've been on many stages, but this was a completely different ball game. And there was some emotional turmoil to work through. And Alfonso was, like, girl, you all need to breathe. But, yeah, it worked out.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: I'm actually going to take full credit for her playing in the AT&T. Steve John, the tournament host, called me up a few, maybe two weeks before the tournament, and said, hey, we're looking for somebody fun, cool, who knows how to, like, have a great time, will be great with the pros, great with the fans.

I said I've got one person and I know who she is and she'll come. I can guarantee you she will drop everything. So I mentioned her name to Steve. So I'm taking the credit for it because I can.


ALFONSO RIBEIRO: But, like, one of the things -- we've played a lot of golf together so I know her game. And as we were out there playing, I noticed how tense she was, you know? She got off in the beginning, but then she was just, oh, my God, oh my God. I was, like, you know what? They don't care.

That's the one thing that you realize is we all put so much expectation on our own game that we forget that the audience doesn't really care; they're just happy that you're there and that you're having a good time.

So, as long as you're having a great time, they'll have a great time and they won't know the difference between a great shot or not a great shot; just keep having fun. So we kept doing it.

So for three days, you know, it was like -- I saw that I was not going to make the cut with my partner. So I was like I just really want her to make the cut. Like it became my total focus. I was like I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that she stays in every hole.

And she did great, made the cut. Got hailed on on Sunday, not so much fun. But I was very proud of her also. To play in the AT&T first year, making the cut was cool.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: Yeah, I'll never forget, there was a moment on the first day, on the back nine at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. I hit a good chip to within two feet of the hole. And Alfonso came over to me and was, like, you belong here, kid. Don't forget that you belong here.

And for me, that they held me over for the rest of the week and has continued to be the thing in the back of my mind, because people see you on social media, you think you've got all this stuff going on, but you have a lot of tremendous self-doubt.

So then you have that voice in the back of your mind that you belong here, you can do it and hang and compete, no matter how good of a golfer you are.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: And that evening, our host, Jon Miller, texted me and said, hey, you're playing with Kira. You think she might want to play? I said, listen, I can tell you without asking her, yes, she's in, I'll make the connection.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: So here we are. Hello.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: So here we are. (Laughter) I'm like her agent.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: All publicity requests, please refer to Alfonso Ribeiro.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: And I'll make sure she gets it.

Q. Alfonso, this is your 12th appearance here, and, Kira, this is your debut. Alfonso, talk about this tournament and just the experience here and as your 12th appearance. And, Kira, talk about your debut here?
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: Obviously I keep coming back so it means I must love it up here. This is the granddaddy of all celebrity tournaments. There are a lot of single-day pro-ams, and you've got other stuff, other tournaments that have tried to follow this. But this is the one.

And there's nothing better than being here and coming down 17 on Saturday and Sunday and seeing all the boats and everybody hanging out and having fun on 17.

It's a great time. Actually, I'll tell you guys a little secret. So about seven years ago, I decided that I knew a great way to make sure that my family wanted to come up every year. And that was getting engaged here on the lake.

So, like I made sure my wife was, like, no, we have to go to Tahoe. So, when she is like, no, more golf. Well, we've got to go to Tahoe. This way I can get the family to come up.

It's just a great experience. I love it every year. We look forward to this. We made it a family event. It is a great time. Everybody at Harrah's and Harveys and American Century, they take care of us every year.

We are all very blessed to have this opportunity. And I certainly don't look past it every year. My management knows that this is on my calendar no matter what jobs come up. I've actually pushed -- I actually start a job on Monday because I had them push it two weeks so that I could be here. That's how important it is to me.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: And for me, for my debut, so, I'm born and raised in the Bay Area, in Walnut Creek. And my parents have had a home in Lake Tahoe for years. So I've grown up coming to Tahoe every summer and every winter and consider myself a bit of a local.

And when you know so much about Tahoe, you know about the Tahoe tournament, the ACC, the stuff of legends, stuff of myths. Only the coolest people get to be here. And then all of a sudden I'm here, and it's, like, oh, my God. So I'm really excited.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: You belong here. I'm already watching the tension rise (laughter). You belong here.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: We're breathing. Thank you.

So I'm very, very excited -- I got to play a practice round yesterday. It's a tough course. Some of those greens are a little slippery.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: Yes they are. And they'll get faster.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: Fabulous. But I'm just excited to be here and have a good time. And I'm so thankful to the NBC Sports family and ACC and Harrah's and Harveys and everybody for having faith in me and bringing me on as one of four women in the tournament. And I'm very proud to be there --

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: Four great women.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: -- and to represent them and the ladies of the game.

Q. You're obviously both very enthused about the game and being here this week. Curious how each of you got your start in golf and what keeps you hooked on it today, not just this event but even beyond. What keeps you out there working on your games?
ALFONSO RIBEIRO: I'm pretty sure I got started before she did because I've probably been playing as long as she's been alive. I had a couple of friends -- I knew nothing about golf. A buddy of mine came to me one day and said, let's go to the driving range, hit golf balls. I was, like, what's that? I had absolutely no clue.

We went to the driving range and as any amateur would, the first club you pull out of the bag is a driver. You start with the big stick and work your way down. Not, but that's what I did.

And I hit the first one -- it was about a 240-yard carry to over the fence -- I hit it dead center over the fence first swing. Second swing, dead center over the fence. Third one over the fence.

I didn't see the fence again because I saw a lot of the right side after that. But automatically I was like, wow, this is pretty cool to be able to do this.

And then I of course fell in love with the game. And I think the day the game changes for you is the first time you make birdie on a hole. And I did that about two years later, and I was just so excited that I just went, that's the shot that always keeps coming back -- keeps you coming back to this game.

So I knew nothing but fell in love right away. I was 18 years old when this happened. I've been playing a few years.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: How many years?

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: A few years -- 29.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: I'm not even 29. (Laughter) I'm not even 28 yet.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: Like I said, I know I've been doing this longer than you've been alive.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: So, for me, my parents are Russian immigrants. And I think my dad saw golf as, like, this American thing that their kid should do. So as a three-year-old we went on a vacation to Florida, and we played golf. And it just became this thing. You play golf.

And I grew up in very, very serious junior golf -- San Antonio Junior Golf Association. We lived in Texas for five years. And traveling the state and doing all these crazy tournaments.

Then we came back to California, I was 12, 13, and that's the age of girls when things start to become less cool or if something is different. It just wasn't a great environment for me to continue cultivating that skill. And I held on to it through high school. But it wasn't cool anymore, which is like the dumbest thing ever.

And I had those fundamental skills because I started so young. But by the time I made it to high school I was kind of over it, burnt out.

Fast forward, I became Miss America. Now when you're Miss America you get invited to a lot of cool stuff. And I wasn't just there as a guest; I could actually pick up the golf club and swing and had a decent swing, because I still would go to the driving range once in a while with my dad. It was just a thing we did together as a family.

So here I am at the BMW Pro-Am in Greenville, South Carolina, with this guy. He's a big part of my entire --

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: Here I am again, in the story (laughter).

KIRA KAZANTSEV: Alfonso is a constant theme, a constant theme.

And I played probably really poorly. But it was this --

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: No, you played pretty well. That practice round, you lit it up.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: Okay, you heard it here first. You heard it here first. I remember that practice round, but then TV time, not so great.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: I wasn't there to help you through it.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: True. But I realized during that round that not only -- obviously I love being a media personality and I love speaking and doing on-camera work, but I very much love golf. So it turned into this natural marriage of a niche field that I find myself to love, to feel very comfortable in. I love the people.

And as a professional -- I've been a part of so many business meetings that I had no business being a part of simply because I could play golf, because I could swing, because I could speak the language. And it's the one thing that I always tell parents: Get your kids into golf, get your kids into golf. It's a game-changer. It levels the playing field.

And it constantly challenges me. I'll never be as good as I want to be, and I love that because it's something to strive for. And that's why I keep coming back, and I get to do things like this. Why wouldn't you want to continue to work on your game and be as good as you can be?

Q. Alfonso, the first couple of years he was here was on stage with Arty performing. Has he told you it's a rookie ritual now? I see you're an accomplished singer?
KIRA KAZANTSEV: I'm in the karaoke night. Does that count?

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: That's different. I'll inform her after this, all of what Arty the Party is supposed to look like. And I know she can get up and at least play one or two songs.

Q. Does she know the theme song from "Fresh Prince"?
KIRA KAZANTSEV: West Philadelphia, I know that.

ALFONSO RIBEIRO: I don't even know that. You probably know it better than I do. I think the last time I heard the song was probably 15 years ago because I don't watch myself.

KIRA KAZANTSEV: Well, I grew up, sorry, watching you, Alfonso, and I have heard it a lot. So I love that song. But I won't do it simply because Alfonso probably would like to hear me sing another song.


Q. You've done a lot of USO tour engagements, singing. Thank you for that.
KIRA KAZANTSEV: It was the honor of a lifetime to go around the world with the military, saying hello and singing, yep.


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