BY RON CHOQUETTE, WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SUSAN ROSSER
Harper Kiss, 9, the daughter of Kristen and Thomas Kiss of Lighthouse Point, doesn’t just play golf; she lives golf. At the first mention of the game, her blue eyes light up the room.
I recently spent an afternoon with Tom and Harper at the Pompano Golf Complex to learn more about this Pine Crest School third-grader. She is amazing.
Harper first swung a plastic toy club at age 2. At 4-years-old, her dad got her started hitting balls. Lessons with a golf professional began at age five. By 6, she was hooked. After learning the rules of the game and proper course etiquette, she played in her first tournament when she turned 7 in October 2019.
Most golfers have a few golf tales — such as that time they sunk an impossible putt or hit a drive worthy of Tiger Woods. As we talked about golf, Harper recounted one of her favorite golf memories when she hit an awful shot but managed to rally.
“I was playing in a tournament, and my first shot went behind a tree. And my second shot was about 20 feet away from the pin, and I made the putt for eagle.”
At this point, her mother, doubling as her social media manager, whips out her phone to show a heartwarming video of the moment. After sinking the putt, Harper is thrilled and runs around the green looking for her mother. It is a touching moment to watch. The video has over 22,000 views on Instagram.
Harper’s average score in her first few tournaments was in the low 50s. Realizing her potential, Tom had an astroturf putting green installed in their backyard. And within two weeks, Harper’s average score dropped twelve strokes. A few short months later, she learned that she had qualified for the US Kids Golf World Championship. Within less than a year of tournaments under her belt, she placed 12th in the world in her age group.
Of course, playing golf at such a high level is demanding. Harper has a packed weekly schedule. She practices at Don Law Golf Academy with Diego Velasquez, a professional Colombian Golfer, on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Tuesday and Thursday, she takes lessons from Michele Conte at Palm Aire Country Club and then stays for another hour or two practicing skills she worked on during the lesson. And you can sometimes spot her at the Pompano Beach Golf Course on Fridays for a practice round or at the range.
Kristen marvels at her daughter’s determination. She notes that many kids her age play team sports, affording them the chance to spend time with friends. Golf is an individual sport, so Harper spends a lot of time practicing at the range instead of with a team full of her peers. Yet, Harper’s eyes light up when she talks about how she loves the challenge, how much she relishes hitting a great shot, and how gratifying it is to play a terrific round of golf. Her love of the game is unmistakable.
Kristen admits that she can’t hit a golf ball — even though she is very athletic. She joked that she assumed she would be able to pick up golf pretty quickly since her 9-year-old daughter is such a natural. After one trip to the driving range, she conceded that was not the case. This realization makes her even more proud of her daughter’s accomplishments.
Of course, Harper’s weekends are pretty packed too. She plays in tournaments almost every Saturday and Sunday. Local events are one day, regional tournaments are two days, and the World Championship is three days. Players in Harper’s age bracket only play nine holes instead of 18.
Harper plays on six junior golf tours: US Kids Golf, Gold Coast Junior Golf Foundation, South Florida Junior PGA., IMG, LPGA/USGA Girls Golf, and the Under Armour Junior Tour.
The summer is the busy season for Harper. During the spring, she beefs up the time and intensity of her practices in preparation for the most significant golf events of her life (thus far). In July is the first-ever Under Armour Junior Tour World Championship. August is the pinnacle event for junior golfers –– the US Kids Golf World Championship which attracts the best junior golfers worldwide. When she placed 17th in the world, Harper’s age group last year consisted of the 68 best female golfers. The field continues to grow in size as she gets older.
People have already requested Harper’s autograph, and many times at practice, she has an audience of adults watching her play in disbelief. She is very well known at the three courses she visits weekly.
Harper has the makings of a great golfer — her focus is exceptional. She is disciplined, confident, pleasant and highly driven.
When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Harper is quick to answer, “A PGA player.”
At this point, Kristen chimes in and clarifies that Harper plans to play professionally on the PGA (men’s) tour, not on the LPGA (women’s) tour.
And then, Harper, with her thousand-watt smile and a sparkle in her eye, reminds us, “They make more money.”
Follow Harper’s golf journey to the 2022 world championship on Instagram @harperkissgolf
Fun Facts about
Favorite ice cream :-
vanilla Dairy Queen Blizzard with Reeses and cookie dough
Favorite dinner :-
steak or sushi
Best school subject :-
technology and math
Favorite rollercoaster :-
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios Florida (apparently, Harper is a rollercoaster fanatic.)
Harper’s accomplishments in 2021 include:
• A new personal best score in a tournament of 31, five under par, including a bogey, three pars, four birdies, and an eagle.
• first place – LPGA/USGA Girls Golf National Championship,
• tied for first place – Under Armour Junior Tour Winter Nationals (co-ed)
• third-place – US Kids Golf Florida State Invitational
• tied for 2nd place – I.M.G. Junior Honda Classic,
• 17th Place – US Kids Golf World Championships at Pinehurst, NC.
• advanced to the regional competition for the PGA Drive, Chip, and Putt (locally, she was placed first for chipping and putting, and second in driving, at Broken Sound Country Club in Boca Raton).
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