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She's Got Game

By Tom Cunneff

| Mar 21, 2022

Actress Kathryn Newton has a passion for golf, and even teed it up for her Los Angeles-area high school. (USGA/Robert Beck)

On the course or on the screen, Kathryn Newton is a star

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Google “Kathryn Newton Pebble Beach 17.” Go ahead. Then make sure you turn the video’s sound on, so you can not only see what is likely the best celebrity swing ever but hear the crack of a purely struck golf ball (not to mention Bill Murray gushing, “Oh, nice swing.”) Newton, the “Big Little Lies” actress, who was playing in this year’s AT&T charity exhibition match, stiffed it to 5 feet – with Tour sauce.

“I’m lucky that I started playing so young,” says Newton, 24. “It’s kind of in my body now.”

Taught by her dad, David, a college golfer, Newton began playing at age 5 growing up in Miami. She’s been acting even longer, starting when she was 4 on the soap opera “All My Children,” but golf took precedence early on. She chose competing in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst over auditioning for a CBS sitcom, “Gary Unmarried,” at age 11 in 2008. Luckily, the director, “Cheers” creator Jim Burrows, was a golfer, and not only did he understand, after Kathryn got the part, he wrote golf scenes into the show for her.

The family moved to Los Angeles, where Kathryn was such a standout on the Notre Dame High School golf team she was known as “Kathryn the Golfer.” The only year the team didn’t win the league title came when Newton was shooting the TV series “Supernatural” and missed too many matches.

Some of the girls she befriended and competed against as a junior, such as Megan Khang, are now out on tour, but given how well her career is going, Newton clearly made the right choice. With starring roles over the years in feature films like “Bad Teacher” (2011), “Freaky” (2020), and “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” (2021), and TV series like PBS’ “Little Women” (2017) and Netflix’s teen drama “The Society” (2019), she’s flushing it in Hollywood like she did her iron shot at Pebble.

Newton is currently filming her biggest role to date in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” due out in 2023. “I’m so honored to be joining the Marvel universe,” she said. “It’s like winning a major for me.”

Speaking of majors, Newton recently became the U.S. Women’s Open brand ambassador for the USGA’s new ad campaign, “The Journey to The Open.”

Tell us about your trip to the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic in June to watch old friend Megan Khang?

It was so cool. Everyone is the best who’s out there, so to see someone you’ve known since you were 8 achieve their dreams, it just inspires you. I brought two of my high school teammates, and we were like, “Let’s start practicing and get really good and enter in a qualifier.”


Actress Kahtryn Newton did some promotional ads leading up to the 2021 U.S. Women's Open at The Olympic Club. (USGA/Robert Beck)

Q: What would you like people to take away from your video spots?

Don’t drive a golf cart in high heels [laughs]. I just want people to realize what a really big deal the U.S. Women’s Open is. It’s got such a legacy and tradition. To be a part of that personally is an honor. I just have so much respect for the [championship] and the girls who play in it. It’s a really big deal.

Q: How did you get into acting at such a young age?

I was in New York and doing modeling for the summer, which led to auditions. I booked “All My Children.” When that ended, I had more time for junior golf, and then about a year later I got another call from New York for the “Gary Unmarried” audition.

Q: And golf?

I grew up playing on The Biltmore golf course in Coral Gables, Fla. My dad got me a little putter and 7-wood, and would take me to the range with him. I really fell in love with it when I started playing in tournaments at 8 because I made so many friends like Megan. We’d make sure we stayed in the same hotel and would go swimming afterwards. I think golfers are pretty great people because you see the truth, you see the person for who they are.

Q: How much do you get to play these days?

Probably about once a week and that’s not enough, but on a lot of projects I do, they’ll write in golf scenes, or we’ll film next to a course and everyone will go golfing with me. I got to play in Scotland when I was shooting “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu.” It’s just a really cool way that I’ve seen the world, and when you’re a kid on a set with a bunch of adults, you don’t really have much in common with them, but most people play golf, so I could always talk about that with them.

Q: Shooting HBO’s “Big Little Lies” in Monterey and Carmel must have been pretty special as a golfer?

I got to play some great courses while I was there. That was the best set I’ve ever been on. We wrapped that project like three or four years ago, but I keep dreaming that we’re going to get back together [for Season 3].

Q: What’s your favorite golf memory?

There was one match in high school where I shot 5 under for nine holes, which was a course record. That was a really good feeling because I felt like I figured out how to win. I can’t remember how to win anymore. But in that moment, I really felt like I figured out life. I was like, This game is so easy!

Q: Since you work in the world of make-believe, what is your golf fantasy?

My golf dream is to have my own charity tournament one day where I can invite all the girls that I played with competitively growing up and have them all come out and support a charity. I want to do something good with it and have fun. I also want to get more kids involved in the sport. Golf has given me so much confidence and really kind of defines who I am and how I carry myself in the world, too. It’s really character-building. I wish more people played this game because it has definitely enriched my life.  

The Kathryn Newton File
Family: Poodles Jack, Buddy and Little Kiddle
Handicap: +1.6 (a few years ago)
Home Course: The Biltmore Hotel Golf Course
Favorite Club: "It's always been my 8-iron"
Favorite Course: Cypress Point Club
Dream Foursome: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Megan Khang

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