When I was two or three, my grandfather, who was my best friend and my mentor, used to take me with him to Jacksonville Country Club in Jacksonville, Illinois, where I grew up. I'd sit on his bag and swing my little plastic golf clubs until I was old enough to play with him. It was great for our relationship, but I also learned about being patient and being disciplined. Our time on the golf course really helped shape me as a person. I mastered a few cuss words, too.
"I saw the Babe Didrikson Zaharias story in sixth grade. She would hit and hit and hit until she had calluses on her hands. So I went into the garage and pulled out my grandmother's old Patty Berg clubs. They were all rusty, so I rode my bike to the thrifty store and bought WD-40 and scrubbed off all the rust. Then I went out behind our apartment and kept hitting and hitting, but I never got those calluses.
"These days, I'm usually off the CNN set at 3:30 p.m. If I don't have a lot of planning to do for the next day, I dash right to the course, and I can usually get in eighteen before it gets dark. I do that at least once every other week. Plus I play at least once every weekend with my husband or some of our good friends. I wish I could find more women who play golf, but it's hard. There are a couple of LPGA players who live here in Atlanta whom I've met through mutual friends, and every now and then we'll get together and play, but it's usually with my husband. I told him I wouldn't marry him unless he learned how to play golf—and now he's better than I am. I even used to out-drive him. I've won a few long-drive contests. My longest is 247 yards.
"Every time I travel I bring the sticks, because I don't want to miss an opportunity. My photographers like to play golf, too, so if we have an extra day on the road we'll try to get a round in. I love playing courses all over the country and internationally. I like the challenge of a new course, and I like meeting other golfers.
"The craziest place I've ever golfed is Antarctica. I was there for a story and discovered a golf course built on the ice, and of course I played it. I've also played in Bahrain, when I was in the Middle East covering the Iraq invasion. I was on the USS Abraham Lincoln for 'Shock and Awe,' and then I went into Iraq, near Umm Qasr, right when the troops came in. It's harder to hit a golf ball than to fly in an F-14 over the Persian Gulf—trust me.
"I can get on the set at CNN and anchor a national or international newscast and never get nervous, but I get up on that first tee and, like clockwork, I always get the jitters. When I interviewed Deepak Chopra, I said to him, 'I read your book Golf for Enlightenment, and you talk about being one with the ball, talking to the ball. Deepak, I've talked to the ball, I've talked to the club, I've talked to God. I cannot beat the nervousness!' When I recently interviewed Annika Sorenstam, I asked her if she still gets nervous, and she said absolutely. She told me about how nervous she was on that first tee at the Colonial when she was playing with the men, and what a relief it was when she hit a decent drive. I always know I'm going to have a good day if I nail my first drive."
After my grandfather died of a brain tumor four years ago, I wanted to do something to honor him. So I got involved with the Brain Tumor Foundation for Children. I put on a golf tournament at Château Élan Winery & Resort outside Atlanta every year to raise money for them.
"I play golf for the feeling of that pure shot. My favorite shot ever was at the Challenge at Manele, the Nicklaus course on Lanai in Hawaii. There's a very tricky par three. You start out way up high, and there's water right and water left and water in the middle. If you don't hit it onto the green, your ball is gone. I took out my nine-iron or my wedge and hit it so clean. It went way up high and came down three inches from the cup for a birdie. I've got a photograph of that hole, and every time I look at it I feel great."
Scorecard KYRA PHILLIPS
HANDICAP "I've been as low as a 12."
BEST SCORE 84, on the Babe Zaharias course at Industry Hills GC, CA
FAVORITE COURSES Montecastillo GC, Jerez, Spain; the Challenge at Manele, HI; East Lake GC, The Frog GC at The Georgian, Château Élan Winery & Resort, and North Fulton GC, all in GA
EQUIPMENT Callaway Great Big Bertha driver and fairway woods; Callaway X-14 irons; Cleveland 60-degree wedge
PRESS CREDENTIALS Four-time Emmy winner; 1997 AP Reporter of the Year; host of the CNN weekday newscast Live From . . .