GOLF

Competition drives sibling rivalry

2010-09-04T00:00:00Z Competition drives sibling rivalryMatthew Lechuga Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 04, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Even on the practice green, Nikko and Kirsti Grau keep the competition level high. As Kirsti leaves one putt a couple of inches short, Nikko is quick to let her hear about it.

"You think they're competitive?" said their father, Jose Grau.

Nikko, a senior at Cienega, and Kirsti, a junior, have been hitting the links from an early age - Nikko starting at 8, and Kirsti at 9.

"I used to sit with my dad and watch Tiger win all these championships and was getting tired of seeing him win all the time," said Nikko. "I used to be a Tiger fan, but now I want to find my own way of doing it."

Not one to let her brother get all the credit, Kirsti picked up the clubs shortly thereafter.

"He started winning all these trophies, so I thought to myself, 'I want some of those,'" she said.

Both Nikko and Kirsti have competed on the national stage, with Nikko's first big jump into tournament golf coming at the Heather Farr qualifier in Phoenix at 14.

Kirsti, at 12, played at a famous course, Pinehurst (N.C.), and both have played in numerous American Junior Golf Association events. Their most recent success came at the Southern Arizona Junior Golf Association Silverbell Classic earlier this month, where Nikko and Kirsti won the boys and girls 15-18 divisions.

So, which one is better? It depends whom you ask. They both excel in different areas. The siblings and their father, who's an assistant coach at Cienega, weighed in on their greatest attributes.

Nikko's 3 strengths:

1. Driving. "The first time I had an actual lesson, the first thing we did was unwrap my brand new clubs. The instructor said let's see you hit one, and I put one right down the middle of the range, and he said that's it, I'm done. You don't need me."

2. Long iron play. "I'm good with my long irons. I just hit them solidly, and usually I end up putting for a pretty good birdie."

"Nikko's biggest thing is his tempo," Jose said. "If his tempo on his swing is good, he can hit the ball well."

3. Love for the game. Nikko's dedication is an advantage. He works at del Lago Golf Club picking up balls on the range while learning more of the business side.

Kirsti's 3 strengths:

1. Mental toughness. "Her strongest point is her mind and focus," Jose said.

"After playing at Pinehurst when I was only 12, going into the AJGA was like nothing," Kirsti said.

2. Putting and chipping. "I'm pretty good with my short game. If I can get anywhere near the green, I can get up and down for a birdie."

3. The lefty advantage. Like her idol, Phil Mickelson, Kirsti is a right-handed person who plays golf left-handed. "Every time I would set up, I would set up on the left side," she said. "I never thought it was weird. It was just comfortable."

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