Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

In Play with Craig Mattick: Kris Tschetter

In Play with Craig Mattick: Kris Tschetter

She's one of the greatest golfers in South Dakota history. Kris Tschetter, a graduate of Sioux Falls Washington, went on to have a two-and-a-half decade career on the LPGA Tour. In 1992, Tschetter won the Northgate Computer Classic, her lone win on the LPGA Tour. She also won the Walgreen's Charity Classic in 2015 on the LPGA Champions Tour. Tschetter joined the 'In Play with Craig Mattick' podcast to talk about her journey. 

Be sure to subscribe to the 'In Play with Craig Mattick' podcast via Apple or Spotify.

We've had golfers in the PGA, but we've also had golfers from South Dakota in the LPGA. You got to go way back to the 50s where you had Marlene Hagge. In fact, one of the 13 founders of the LPGA. She was born in Eureka, South Dakota. Of course right now, Kim Kaufman is doing very well on the tour, a young and up and coming star in the LPGA. But one of the trendsetters is Kris Tschetter from Sioux Falls. The Sioux Falls native and 20 plus years on the LPGA and now on The Legends Tour.

Growing up in Sioux Falls, probably in the mid 70s, you're not in high school yet, what was sports like in the Tschetter household? Was golf still something on your mind at that time? Or were there other sports that you were involved with early on before you even got to high school?

Well, if you ask any one of my caddies, they will tell you how un-athletic Kris Tschetter is. It is bad. They know not to throw me balls. They know that if I try to throw them one, they're probably going to have to die for it. My other sport, my winter sports I guess, was ballet. And if I could have done that, I think I would have chosen that over golf. Because I, as much as I love golf, I loved the dancing.

Did that help you at all in the sport of golf?

It definitely did. I think the way that it helped me the most was, dancers are very much looking inward all the time. You know, like you're in class with 30 other people, but you are only thinking about yourself. You're focused on what you're doing. All these other stuff around, but you're looking in the mirror and trying to make corrections and just do your best. And you're just very focused inward.

I think that in golf, I was always that way. I didn't hear anything that was going on around me. Nothing really bothered me. I just was very focused on what I was doing. I think that I got that from dance.

So when did you kind of give up the ballet and golf became the most important part of your life when it comes to athletics?

You know, it was really in high school, probably my junior year. I think, I can't remember if it was my sophomore or junior year, I went to New York and tried out for The School of American Ballet and I didn't make it. But I had not been dancing all that long because I started a little bit late. So I still felt like I had a lot of room for improvement, I could maybe go home and work really hard and still would have a chance. My ballet teacher ultimately is the one who said, "You know, I think you could do it, but you're not ever going to be the best." Apparently I really liked being center stage.

And ultimately though she said, "Ballet careers are short and your golf would, you'd have a much longer career."

I don't think they have a Legends Tour in the ballet field. Do they, Kris?

Oh man. You know, it's funny every now and then I will still have a dance dream where I can dance again and I'm on point and I wake up and I'm like, "Oh, it's going to be a great day."

That's great. Early 80s, you're in high school now at Washington and you're winning high school golf titles. What was going through your life at that time? Golf was pretty big for you. And was it pretty much 24/7 for you?

Well, no. Because growing up in South Dakota, you're not playing year round. I would put my clubs away. Once school started, there was really... I had no tournaments. So if I didn't have a tournament, I wasn't as motivated and I would just put my clubs away until spring. The golf season started again and I just would pretty much devote my time to ballet and I was a basketball cheerleader and I just did other things and I really appreciate that. I look back on that and I love that I was able to have these other things that I loved so much. I think a lot of kids in any sport, don't have that anymore or as much. In a way, I feel like COVID was a little bit of a wake up call for just that slowing down in your life and not having... So many parents with kids going, however many kids you have, that many different directions with practices and games. We never even had a weekend that was open.

If there's a silver lining from COVID, I would say it was just that slowing down and just sort of enjoying kind of other things for a time.

What's going on in the Tschetter sports family? I mean, you were playing golf. What was keeping the rest of the family busy at that time?

Well, Mike was playing golf. We all played golf. We had a rule in our house that was start on 17. If anyone started talking about their round, that could take all of dinner. So my mom would always be the one she'd be like, "Start on 17."

When was it, do you really decided, "Okay, I'm going to make this really important and this is something that I want to go after."

Yeah. I mean, I knew I would go to college and play there. I, sort of in the back of my mind, knew that I wanted to play on tour. Never in my wildest dreams, even when I got my tour card the first year, did I think that I would do it for a long time. I thought I would do it for five years and then I would start my real life. I had no idea what my real life was going to be, but I didn't think it was going to be golf.

Somebody had to push you though, right? Someone had to push you whether it was in high school or in college. Who were some of those, coaches that pushed you to make you a better player?

Well, I wouldn't say that anyone pushed me. I mean, it was my parents were great about never really pushing. It was always our choice but I had a lot of people there to help me when I asked. Terry Crouch was the pro at our club growing up. My dad, my brother, my brother Mike. Eric, he just wasn't quite as into golf. My mom was always anywhere we needed to be, she would get us there. And then in high school, Jim Luce was my coach. It's so funny because he was the football coach and he was such a gentle golf coach. I can't imagine. He had to be different, I would think, for football.

He never yelled at you to give him 20, if you didn't get a good shot?

No, never yelled at us when we made a mistake. And oddly, when I went to college, I got a coach that did and that was awful. I remember leaving our first tournament from college and we had finished second and we all played pretty well and we finished second. We got in the car and he's just mad and everyone's silent and I'm going like, "What's going on here?" And he turns around and he goes, "Well, do you guys like this feeling? Finishing second?" And I'm sitting here like, "I guess not. Is the answer no?"

That was at TCU, right?

That was at TCU. He only ended up coaching that semester and he ended up leaving at semester. TCU was rebuilding the whole time I was there. I had five college coaches.

From the time you were in high school to you're in college, what part of the game of golf really improved and made you really step up your game?

You know, I don't think I really stepped up my game until I got on tour. That was when I got much more intense and like, I need to be a lot better. My first year on tour, I played in just about every tournament and it didn't make nearly enough money. I think I finished like 145th on the money list, but I loved being out there. I loved the golf and the courses are always in the best shape. I love playing a round of golf where you got to post a score and everything counts. And that's what playing tournaments is. I was like, "Oh, I love it out here. But man, do I have a lot of improving to do."

It amazes me when it comes to the LPGA and the PGA, but basically you are your own company. And you determine and maybe there's some luck with it, on if you're going to get paid or not. How well you perform and all the expenses that you have. What was it like those first few years knowing that, you got to get to payday here sooner or later.

Yeah. Well, and this is where, I was so privileged that I had, a every opportunity growing up. The best courses, the best teachers, my dad and mom made sure that if I needed it, I got it. Although it did take a while before I got my first set of clubs, I was getting hand me downs for a while.

When did you get your own first set of clubs?

My first set of clubs was when I was 14 and three of the heads of my irons flew off within, probably like a week and a half. Because they had rusted through, and my dad was like, "Oh, maybe we should get you a new set of clubs." Fortunately I chose Hogan. I chose what I wanted and I chose Hogan. Then I end up at TCU and a member at Shady Oaks, where Ben Hogan is a member, and I was playing the right club.

And you got a really nice relationship with Ben. And of course the book came out with it. I'm going to talk about that in a second, but I want to first... We'll jump to 1992, okay. You've been on tour for what, five years? And you win the tournament, the Northgate. What was going on with your stroke, with your shots on that special day when you won your first title?

Well, it was a super windy, windy day. When it's windy, if you're a good ball striker, if you can work the ball, that's a huge advantage. That was good for me. That week, my dad was caddying for me and I putted, not great but I didn't miss. I didn't have any three putts, which is very rare for me to not have one, three putt in a tournament. I made all of my, three, four, five footers. That was the difference. I don't think I ever did that. I must not have ever done that again.

Here I'm thinking with all the wind I'm thinking, "Well, that's just South Dakota. You're used to the wind in playing in South Dakota."

Yeah. Well, and you have Texas, you learn to play in the wind. You learn to work the ball so that you can use the wind to your advantage rather than having it to push you around. And the other thing was this, the golf course had five par 3s and I birdied four of them the last day. A couple of them were kick ins, you know, like eight inches.

You had that feeling though, right? It was that, just had a feeling. You could almost do anything that day. Did you have that kind of feeling?

I don't know if I had that feeling. I just felt good. I felt steady. I felt like, just play your own game and just stay in the moment. When I won, I felt like, "Okay. I mean, this is what I'm supposed to do." If you had told me that day, "You're never going to win another LPGA tournament." I would have said, "No fricking way." I felt like I was on my way.

So when you think back to that tour, the next four or five, six years, did you really start getting frustrated that you weren't winning a title once in awhile?

No. I mean, obviously yes. It wasn't something that I always thought about. I had a lot of good tournaments. I had a lot of chances and just for whatever reason, things didn't, I didn't win. But that's the thing with golf, I mean, as much as you want to win and that's what you're striving to do, a couple of second place finishes in a month or two. Like you're having a good step, good. I wanted to win. It was trying to win. I was still having good tournaments where I had chances. It wasn't like, I was always playing bad on Sunday. It wasn't that, sometimes it was... I came from behind on Sunday or, somebody else shot a really low round and just different things. It was never just one thing that I could go, "This is what it is. And this is what I need to do." Other than my putting was always inconsistent.

If I could do anything, I would make myself a little better putter.

Kim Kaufman from Clark/Willow Lake, she's on tour right now. What kind of experience do you tell her about being on tour?

Well, she's been out there. She knows the drill. Just talk to her about the ups and downs of playing on tour. When you look back at your year or your years, there's always, you get on good streak you get on bad streak. Every golfer thinks that they have it and it's never going away. They also think at times that they've lost it and it's never coming back and both statements are not true.

Before we talk about Ben Hogan, we talked about the 92 win, but in 96 you finished second to Annika Sörenstam in the US Open. What was going through you in that tournament, knowing that you were that close of winning a major?

Well, I really wasn't that close actually, because she was running away with it. On Saturday, I think she was up by six or seven shots going into Sunday. We all knew that unless she fell down and broke her leg, we were playing for second place. Annika doesn't make many mistakes. She doesn't miss many fairways. So there's not a lot that can go wrong when she's playing. Let me just tell you one of my favorite stories about Annika, I was playing with her in Nashville. So we're sitting on a tee just kind of waiting to go. And I said to her, "You know, I like this golf course." And she goes, "Yeah, fairways are a little wide."

A little wide?

I just looked at her. I go, "Annika, Some of us like that." Who thinks the fairways are too wide?

They're all not wide enough. All of them.

Yeah, exactly, exactly. I'm trying to remember, I think it was 1995, I was leading the Dinah Shore going into the last three holes, and I three-putted 17. I missed the 3-footer. I felt like I hit a good stroke and I've either misread it or pulled it a little or whatever I said. I ended up losing to Betsy King. That was probably the tournament where I felt like I really let something get away. With the US Open in 96, I was pretty proud of myself for finishing full second place, because that was the goal on Sunday. Knowing who was in the league by how much.

Let's go to Ben Hogan, one of the biggest, biggest names in all of golf. And you ran into him and a nice relationship between you and eventually you wrote a book. How did that happen? What did Ben mean to you?

First of all, I never ever thought I would write a book. I am not a writer. I had no plans to whatsoever. If I did, I would have written a heck of a lot more down during those years, because when you... Something happens every day, just about you don't tend to remember as much. And my dad would tell me, "Oh, you should be writing these things down." And I'm like, "Oh, I'll remember." He's right so much of the time. But anyway, my brother and I were going to school at TCU and TCU did not have a great place to practice for the golf team.

We would practice out at this park and we would hit our balls and go pick them up which was fine. But you know, not a great practice facility. My brother had found out that Shady Oak was doing junior memberships for $750 initiation fee. They were trying just to get some younger people into the club. So he'd been talking to my dad about that and comes up to me just out of the blue, and she's like, "Excuse me, do you have a gun?" [inaudible 00:21:20] And I said, "No, what?" And she goes, "That man over there." There was a guy over in a truck she's like, "He's been following me and I'm really scared and I just don't know what to do." So me South Dakota girl, I'm like "Here, get in my car. I'll give you a ride wherever you need to go."

I told my brother that story and he's just like, "Oh my God, you are an idiot. Kris, did you ever think that maybe it was a setup?" And I'm like, "No. South Dakota." But he says, "But tell dad that story." When I told my dad that story he was like, "That's it, we're getting you those memberships at Shady Oaks." We became members at Shady Oaks and they told us, "We leave Mr. Hogan alone. You don't talk to him. If he wants to talk to you, he will, but you are not to seek him out." I did that at first, it felt like I was saying hello to every other person that walked by. And then I would see Mr. Hogan and I would act like I didn't see him. I thought, "This is ridiculous. What am I doing?"

And so I finally just kind of was myself and said hello. He said, hello. And that was it. Then just through the time that I was there and he saw how much I love golf and how hard I was working at it, he just sort of took an interest. He would start, stop and watch me hit a few and offer a bit of advice here and there. Again, I don't remember how long it took or how the relationship changed, but eventually, he was coming out and he... When I was first there, he would just hit a few balls. Like he'd carry him in his pocket, walk around with one club, hit a shot every now and then.

But pretty soon he was putting his clubs on the cart and coming out and he'd stopped. He'd watch me hit a few. Then he would go in and hit it. It was on this little line at Shady Oaks where you could just hit your own balls and go pick them up. Then it got to be where he would come to wherever I was, he would tire very quickly. He might only hit a couple of times, like 25 balls, a piece. And then he would just watch me. He would stay out there for maybe an hour, hour and a half.

You had to have been nervous at that time.

Well, at first I was, but I think I was never as nervous as most people just because I didn't truly understand the whole history. I knew he was a bit of a recluse, I just didn't understand the whole mystique thing. Then I got pretty comfortable with him and we didn't... It wasn't always about golf. Like we'd be hitting and I'm a talker. Now this, I do think about often, there's all these stories of people watching him hit and not never saying a word and him, never saying anything to them. I was saying something to him after probably every shot. There was no silence when he was out there. When my little brother would come out, Eric, we called it the sideshow and Mr. Hogan called it the sideshow too. He'd be like, "Is Eric coming out? I just wanted to know if we're going to have the sideshow today."

What was the sideshow?

The sideshow was just the up in conversation and joking and laughing when Eric was there. It was a lot when it was just the two of us, but add Eric to the mix, and it took it to a whole new level.

What was the biggest pointer Mr. Hogan gave you?

Oh, there were so many, but I would say it was mostly about playing golf. About managing your game and hitting the right shot for the right occasion. Outworking them, out-playing them, out-thinking them that was a very common theme every day.

You also give back. You give back, Kris. You come to Sioux Falls a lot. Of course, the COVID put a little bit of a strain on that recently. But you know, you give back and that's why I think so many people here in South Dakota respect you because you could have easily left the state, not come back, not worry about us anymore, but you come back and you have kind of your own golf tournament here and raising money for kids. How is that going? Are you going to be able to have another one here real soon? And as soon as we get out of the COVID?

We did the FCA Make-A-Wish for, I think we did it for like, 12 or 13 years. Then I got involved with the Y and the middle school after-school program. All of these things, they just ebb and flow and people get a little tired of them. And so you try to spruce them up a little bit. The last thing I did was, I didn't do it in South Dakota, maybe I should bring this to South Dakota, we called it Weekend with the Warriors. We brought in veterans from all over the country, there's a group called The Salute Military Golf Association, that I just really love and support. Basically their mission is to bring golf to veterans, get them clubs, get them started and get them playing. It was such a fun weekend. Raising money was part of it, but it was also experiencing, just being with these guys and seeing what they have to go through and just being inspired by that. So it was the experience and the raising money for them.

Kris, it would work in South Dakota because we love our service men and women. It would be awesome for South Dakota.

Yeah. I might just have to figure that out.

Well, you're on The Legends Tour, how busy are you on The Legends Tour? You're playing with Kathy Whitworth and all these great names, Patty Sheehan, and you go on and on Nancy Lopez. I mean, these are the biggest names that a lot of us remember in women's golf and the LPGA. How busy are you with it?

It's so great to be able to still compete. I mean, I don't ever feel like I actually have my a game anymore. But, it is just so much fun to be out there and still be able to play golf like I love to play it in a tournament.

You got a couple of daughters and they're at the age now, I think, where they just at high school level or just out of high school? I'm trying to remember.

I've got a sophomore and a senior.

Do they love golf? Do they have any aspirations to do something about it?

They don't love it one single bit. One of my daughters, one of mine will play. She'll hit balls and she'll play if I say, "Come with me please." The other one Kyra, so that's Lainey. Kyra my youngest, if you ask her if she likes golf, this will be her answer. She goes, "No. Golf is not a sport."

Knowing what their mother has done, that's an amazing answer, isn't it?

Yes, yes. She has no respect for golf or me. No, maybe a little respect for me.

So how much longer do you think you want to play on The Legends Tour?

I would play as long as I'm able. I have a lot of trouble with my hands. I have terrible, terrible osteoarthritis in my hands, but it's super slow moving. It is really painful when a joint goes bad, it takes a while for it to go completely bad, but it gets swollen and sore, and they're not good. I'm actually losing my grip on my right hand. I only have the three fingers that you use, the bottom three fingers, I only have my ring finger and I'm losing that. I'm not sure what's going to happen. But, I will go down fighting. I mean, I'll always be able to play. I just, I don't know how much longer I can really compete though, because it is getting pretty bad.

Lastly, Kris, we know the ballet thing didn't quite work out, you could have lived in New York for the last 30 years of being in ballet and... If the golf thing had not worked out, what do you think Kris Tschetter would have been doing?

Well, I think I would have been some kind of healer and I'm actually doing that now. When COVID happened about two years ago, I did this brain balancing and I loved it. It was life-changing and it helped my goal. I actually struggled with the yips for 20 years and I did this brain balancing and it's different than most brain balancing. Most brain balancing that people have heard of is, you're trying to control it. You see that something has been activated or your heart rate has gone up and you try to calm it down. This brain balancing is different in that, they have figured out a way for you to actually, for your brain to be able to see itself. They've applied a musical tone to the frequencies in the brain, and you listen to it in real time and your brain actually recognizes itself and tries to balance.

Does it make you perform better? Memory better? What was the biggest plus?

It helps stress, sleep, mood, mental acuity, energy level. Basically, your brain tries to fix itself. Your brain tries to optimize. Once it sees like, "Oh, I'm out of balance." It optimizes itself. I struggled with the yips for 20 years. I had gotten into an LPGA event, this was in 2019, and I was a little bit afraid to play in it because my yips had, with stress and everything, had gotten just so bad. But I found out about this brain balancing and I did it, and I went to that tournament and I didn't have the yip.

So you're going to open up your own office and encourage people to come in?

When COVID happened, I went through the education for it and have learned it all. And yes, I am going to open an office. I'm going to open one here in DC, but I am very, very much interested in opening one in Sioux Falls as well.

Do we call you Doctor Tschetter?

It's not anything that I'm doing to the brain, so you don't have to call me Doctor Tschetter. It truly isn't. So like, I'm not doing anything to you. It's simply your brain seeing itself and optimizing and I'm... Can I just tell you that it's called Cereset. It's spelled C-E-R-E-S-E-T. It's a combination of cerebellum reset.

You could eventually, down the road, you'll open up in Sioux Falls, who knows how many athletes may come see you.

It's really for both. For me, just life-wise, stress-wise, my kids, everybody. We're stressed to the max and that definitely got better. I handle stress so much better. But the golf I'm telling you, in fact, in the tournament that I played in, it was an LPG event. Courses longer, you know, tough. I didn't play well the first day, but my body wasn't feeling very good. But the second day I went out, I felt better and I ended up birdieing five holes in a row. I mean, I haven't played in a tournament without the yip for 20 years and I did not have the yip.

You're elected and selected to be in the South Dakota sports Hall of Fame. What does that mean to you?

It was thrilling. Again, I don't consider myself much of an athlete. So to be in the golf Hall of Fame, I understood that I guess a little bit, but to be in the sports Hall of Fame is pretty amazing.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.