After rough upbringing, Elizabeth earns LPGA card

Victoria Elizabeth

Victoria Elizabeth

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A young woman stood at the scoreboard trying to work out Victoria Elizabeth’s name. So, wait; are the bigger letters the first or last name? If it looks as if Victoria Elizabeth is missing a surname name, well, that’s because she dropped it.

Victoria Kiser started going by Victoria Elizabeth (her middle name) two years ago on the Symetra Tour. She hasn't spoken with her father, Doug Kiser, since Dec. 31, 2008, and he since has been under a court-imposed no-contact order, Elizabeth said. The 20-year-old didn’t legally change her name, but the move symbolized a fresh start for the young pro, who finished third on the Symetra Tour money list to earn her card for the 2013 LPGA season.

From the outside, Elizabeth looks like a typical girl-next-door pro, her hair tied up with ribbons and her freckly face warm and engaging.

“My friends tell me I’m 20 going on 45,” Elizabeth said with a laugh.

Elizabeth came by that maturity the hard way. She said she grew up in a physically abusive home with her younger sister, Alexandra. Doug Kiser continues to deny any wrongdoing, Elizabeth said.

It’s only recently that Elizabeth realized how much she loved golf. She describes her father as a controlling, manipulative man who gave little choice about the direction her life would take. A college scholarship would’ve been easy to come by for Elizabeth, but dad kept her at arm’s length from college coaches. Even worse, extended family couldn’t come watch her play or develop much of a relationship.

Elizabeth turned pro at age 17 and earned $7,681 in her first year as a professional, in 2010. Though Elizabeth kept in close contact with her mother, Shawn, she went nearly two years without seeing her mom until last week at the Symetra event in Vidalia, Ga. Shawn Kiser moved thousands of miles from where Elizabeth now makes her home, and the two were busy trying to put their lives back together as best they could. (Elizabeth doesn’t want her families’ locations in print, for safety reasons.)

“When you grow up in an environment like she did you only have one choice,” Shawn said. “To forgive and move on.”

When Elizabeth found a way to forgive, Shawn said, her golf immediately improved.

For a long time, Elizabeth didn’t share her story. She didn’t want to be known as the girl with the abusive past. She wanted to be known for her golf game. Amazingly, she has adjusted enough to be able to look back on her childhood with thanksgiving in her heart for the opportunities her family has given her.

The Kisers moved to Florida from Ohio in 2004 so that Victoria could attend the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. She won seven times on the Future Collegians World Tour and was that junior tour’s Player of the Year in 2007 and ’08.

Once Elizabeth split from her father, opportunists tried to take advantage of a seemingly vulnerable teen. Elizabeth showed strength, however, and reached out to the family from which she was cut off to assemble a support group that got her through her first two seasons on tour.

Last October, after finishing 42nd on the money list, Elizabeth moved to New York City with her aunt. She didn’t practice until mid-February and then made her way down to Florida for the Symetra season opener with $300 in her bank account.

Elizabeth missed the cut in the first event in Winter Haven, Fla., but met a couple of businessmen at the pro-am party who wound up writing a check for her to wear their logo – Sweetener Supply Corp. – that covered her expenses for the year. Suddenly, the world was smiling on Victoria Elizabeth.

She finished runner-up twice before breaking through with her first professional victory July 29 at the Credit Union Classic in Syracuse, N.Y. She celebrated on a party bus with 20-plus friends, including fellow tour player Stephanie Connelly, who turned 25 that day.

Connelly plays every Tuesday practice round with Elizabeth and every now and then learns something new about her difficult past.

“You can’t pry it out of her,” Connelly said. “It comes in her own time.”

Elizabeth traded in her old Jeep Grand Cherokee with a broken air conditioner this year for a new Nissan Murano. With her tie for seventh in the season-ending Daytona Beach Invitational, Elizabeth finished third on the season money list, with $46,565, to lock up her 2013 LPGA card. At 5 feet, 6 inches, she is “longish” at 255 yards off the tee and exceptionally consistent. Her biggest improvement this season: putting.

Elizabeth had a large support crew in Daytona Beach, including her mother, grandparents, aunt and uncle and several folks who planned their vacations around Sunday’s card ceremony.

Elizabeth isn’t afraid to share her story, but she doesn’t want pity in return. These are good days.

“I’ve always believed in myself, and I always believed it would happen,” she said. “I just didn’t give myself another option.”

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