The snapshot shows only a split second.
But it reflects three generations of hopes and dreams — with the deep valleys and rare high peaks — when life swirls around a fickle, dimpled golf ball.
I was standing behind the 18th green at Harbour Town Golf Links. Sun sparkled off of Calibogue Sound, dotted with boats on Sunday afternoon as the last group of PGA Tour pros were finishing the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing in April 2015.
The snapshot was of people I did not know, but emotions we all feel.
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In the shapshot, he’s a 31-year-old father bent face-to-face with his 10-month old daughter, Kate, who was perched on her mother’s hip. Brittany Kisner is beaming. Her smile is huge, like she was born smiling. Christy Kisner, Kevin’s mother, is to the side, adoring what she is seeing, as a TV camera pushes in closer. And in an instant the golfer in red and black has disappeared to seek his fortune.
He would birdie the 18th hole again, but so would wily old Furyk, with his 16 tournament wins, including the U.S. Open. They would go the par-3 17th hole to try again to find a champion. It would be Furyk, who slid a 12-putt into the cup for birdie. He showed rare emotion. It was his first win in more than four years.
Afterward in the press tent, Kisner would speak of his highlights — a 64 on Sunday on the PGA Tour, including a birdie on the treacherous 14th hole. Maybe he could play on the biggest stage.
“The way I played 18 both times, I mean that’s just what you dream about, and that’s what I worked so hard for,” he said. “I hit every shot just like I wanted to coming down the stretch, and that’s all you could ever ask for.”
He left with a nice paycheck of more than $600,000, but still no wins in 90 tries on the PGA Tour.
He said Furyk hit a great putt to win it, “and hats off to him.”
Will to win
Christy Kisner says it’s a unique experience traveling with a teenage boy to weekend golf tournaments and cutthroat competition.
That was her role for a number of years, and she still calls walking the ropes on the PGA Tour intense. She and her husband, Steve, don’t usually try it together.
They raised Kevin at Woodside Plantation in Aiken. He spent all summer playing golf, often with older boys who were good golfers, and he showed early and often a strong will to win. They still tell stories in the clubhouse about Kevin telling the older men he could sink a putt and was willing to put a dollar on it. He was 5.
He played all-star baseball, sometimes on the same day as a youth golf tournament. “He was a ball hog in basketball,” his mother says, and he took charge in soccer games as well.
The South Aiken High School Thoroughbreds won two state golf titles when Kisner was there, and he went on to become the University of Georgia’s first four-time All-American, captain of a national championship team and two-time member of SEC Academic Honor Roll. In the snapshot, he’s wearing the Bulldogs’ colors, black pants and a red shirt. He reads the football recruiting blogs daily. He’s a friend of football coach Kirby Smart.
Kevin and Brittany met not long before he graduated in 2006. It was at a Kinchafoonee Cowboys concert at the Georgia Theatre in Athens.
She grew up in one of the beautiful old homes that line Main Street in Madison, Ga., the town that even William Tecumseh Sherman couldn’t bring himself to burn. Her father, Stan DeJarnett, was the school superintendent.
“We truly could ride our bikes anywhere,” she said. “It was like Mayberry.”
When she and Kevin were married in Athens in 2012, she knew what she was getting into.
“I don’t think people realize what a grind golf is,” he told me.
Brittany got a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from the Medical University of South Carolina and worked with special-needs children at a hospital in Augusta.
On weekends, she was part of Kevin’s world on minitours with names like Hooters and Tarheel, and then on the bigger Web.com Tour. She saw him miss his card to play on the PGA Tour by a single stroke in qualifying school. She saw him make it to the big show, then have to drop back down, and then get back up.
“I wouldn’t trade those years for anything,” she said. “It gives perspective. Golf brings the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s just a fickle game. You have to be prepared for that.”
Kevin’s mother said no one ever lost hope in him.
“I guess I’m his best fan,” she said, “but I call a spade a spade.”
Maybe that’s like the story she told Augusta Chronicle sports editor John Boyette in a profile story before his first trip to the Masters in 2016.
“We’ve never had tickets and I always loved going,” Christy told Boyette. “He said, ‘Mom, don’t worry about it, I’ll get you there.’ That’s when I said, ‘Get me there while I can still walk it.’ ”
When they walked into my snapshot, Kevin stood 254th in the world, and 2015 had not been good to him.
But he would make it into three playoffs that year, including the dazzling duel with Rickie Fowler in the Players Championship, a “surreal experience” for his mother to watch from the ropes on Mother’s Day.
And he won the RSM Classic on St. Simons Island, Ga., late in what turned out to be a magical year. This time, little Kate was able to run to him on the 18th green.
Kevin and Brittany are expecting a second child in September.
He went into the Masters last week ranked 37th in the world, and 18th in FedEx Cup standings. He had three top-10 finishes this year, including another second place, good for $1.6 million. His lifetime earnings have now top $10 million.
“He really does want to be the first South Carolinian to win the Heritage,” Brittany said.
He calls it the grass he grew up on, and it’s a place where both her family and his can come and enjoy a week together.
She’s an officer in the PGA Tour Wives Association and says they’re working on a nice community project for next year when the Heritage turns 50.
She said one of the things that attracted her to Kevin was that he is a hard worker.
“You teach them that anything is possible if you work hard,” Christy said. “To see your children have some kind of success is justification for what you’re doing. You just have to keep on keeping on. I just kept telling Kevin he could do it. It’s nice to see him have some satisfaction and some success.”
Today, Kevin, Brittany and Kate travel together to about 80 percent of his tournaments.
They have remodeled an old home on the Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken.
“It’s our forever home,” Brittany said.
“I think he will win many more tournaments, but whether he does or not, we as a family will be fine.”