Just before competing in this week’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, Katie Miller sat in the dining room of Champions Golf Club and planned the employee work schedule for her parents’ two Dairy Queen restaurants back home in Pennsylvania.
Monday morning, prior to her first round of match play, she sent out work emails and took care of some business before shutting down her iPad and walking out to the practice area.
While those pre-competition demands might have been unnerving for some, Miller’s propensity for perpetual juggling was on full display as she dispatched Liliana Ruiz-Munoz, 4 and 3, in the Round of 64 to advance into Tuesday morning’s Round of 32.
En route to that victory, Miller won four of her first five holes to take control early. Settling into her round of golf was just where she wanted to be.
“It felt great to start like that, but in match play, you never take anything for granted,” said Miller, 32, of Jeannette, Pa., who is competing in her ninth USGA championship and trying to improve on her USGA career-best quarterfinal finishes in three events: the 2015 and 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Balls and last year's Women's Mid-Amateur.
The fact is, Miller takes multi-tasking to an art form. When she’s not competing in golf championships, she works as a freelance broadcaster and an apparel model while also handling whatever duties are required at her parents’ two ice cream shops in Jeannette and Latrobe, Pa.
At 5-foot-10, Miller began modeling apparel in high school and even modeled for a Chapel Hill bridal store while she was in college at the University of North Carolina. She currently models athletic wear for Jofit, a Pennsylvania apparel company, and she also helps the company with sales and outreach to several LPGA professionals.
A journalism major at North Carolina, Miller has also worked as a versatile broadcaster. She has co-hosted an NHL between-periods show and patrolled the red carpet with ice hockey stars during an NHL All-Star weekend.
In addition, she has worked as a producer for Fox Sports golf telecasts. When the 2016 U.S. Open was contested at Oakmont Country Club, Miller walked 18 holes with Dustin Johnson as a spotter, helping to keep Fox’s cameras in sync.
Earlier this year, she co-hosted a radio show for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp. The two-hour football show aired every day during camp. She and her co-host talked to Steelers fans, aired community-based stories, call-in shows and contests.
“Steeler Nation is hardcore, you know,” said Miller, a lifelong resident of the Greater Pittsburgh area.
But it’s at her parents’ ice cream stores where glamour and pizzazz are traded for Blizzards and ice cream cakes. Their stores only serve ice cream creations.
“She’s a jack of all trades, many of which she does very well,” said her mother, Terri Miller, who is pushing her daughter’s golf bag on a cart during this week’s championship. “Her creativity definitely comes out when she’s decorating cakes and I think it also comes out when she’s on the course playing golf. She’s a very creative individual.”
Miller admits she fills in for her teenage employees on Friday nights each fall so they can attend high school football games. She’s also right there alongside her mother during “cake holidays,” decorating and customizing ice cream cakes.
“You have to work fast because it’s ice cream, but it’s pretty fun,” she said. “I decorate 200 cakes every Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter, and that’s just at one store.”
And what does she create?
“I’ll do a basket weave for Easter cakes, John Deere tractor cakes and golf cakes in Latrobe, and cakes with deer heads, with a little plaque in the back with camo spray,” said Miller, whose family store in Latrobe – home of the late Arnold Palmer – is within view of the city’s St. Vincent Basilica church spires.
Because it’s a family business, Miller also unclogs drains, cleans toilets, clears sidewalks in winter, makes radio commercials, handles the restaurants’ social media, interviews and hires employees, and whirls her fair share of Blizzards during busy summer afternoons.
“You should see me at the end of the night,” said Miller. “My shirt is just splattered.”
While ice cream can be a messy business, Miller believes she’s steadily tidying up her golf career.
She played professionally on the Futures Tour (now called the Symetra Tour) in 2009 and 2010, was reinstated as an amateur in 2013, and has embraced the juggling act – calling it “a well-rounded life” dotted with sprinkles of variety.
Her team-player mentality has especially been evident in four-ball play.
Miller and Floridian Charlotte Daughan have won the Women’s International Four-Ball, conducted by the Florida State Golf Association, for the last two years. Daughan will be delivering her first child in early 2018, so Miller will pair with Lauren Greenlief for that event in February, two months before they play together in the USGA’s 2018 U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif.
Miller paired with Amber Marsh Elliott in the USGA’s inaugural Women’s Four-Ball in 2015, reaching the quarterfinals, but family issues prevented Elliott from returning the following year.
Miller paired with Kristen Obush in 2016, again reaching the quarterfinals, but because of a new job requiring extensive travel, Obush was unable to return for the 2017 Women’s Four-Ball.
This year, Miller partnered with Aurora Kan, reaching the Round of 32. Kan plans to turn professional, and will not be eligible next year, so Miller and Greenlief hope to be a winning team in 2018.
“I love the strategy and camaraderie of four-ball play,” said Miller. “I love having a buddy out there to make it fun.”
Because of her varied work schedules, Miller can’t just pack up and leave for a warmer climate during the winter months to work on her golf game.
She stays in the Greater Pittsburgh area year-round, hitting balls off mats, using simulators, banging shots inside the practice dome at nearby Robert Morris University or just bundling up on a range where a heater pointed in her direction reminds her that if she were decorating a cake, she’d better work quickly.
Miller also can’t leave home to compete in many tournaments. Each year, she tries to play in the Women’s International Four-Ball, the USGA’s Women’s Four-Ball, the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and the Pennsylvania State Women’s Amateur.
She also has been in a steady relationship for nine years with Devin Gee, the current head pro at Oakmont Country Club.
“He has a demanding job, so I like to be around to be supportive,” said Miller.
Another little-known talent Miller has is her ability to play trombone. When her grandfather, Carl Masciantonio, died this fall, his friends wanted to hold a memorial concert in his honor. Masciantonio was a longtime music teacher, music director and local concert band member who helped his granddaughter get started in music when she was in the sixth grade.
“I was all ready to play the clarinet and when I went to register for band at my school, the music teacher looked at me said, ‘You have long arms and big lips. You’re playing the trombone.’”
So Miller, who played trombone in district band competitions through high school, took out the old trombone this fall and played alongside her grandfather’s band mates at the family memorial service. She also pulls out the horn at the holidays to play in her family’s pick-up band for family gatherings.
“Our family has always had a lot of fun with music,” she said.
While Miller seems able to find the sprinkles in all of her activities, she believes her solid results in golf have a lot to do with the happiness she has in the rest of her life.
“I don’t have the opportunity to feel the heat of competition as often as a lot of people, and that’s not really something you can practice,” she said.
Then again, when the clock is ticking and a freezer full of ice-cream cakes needs decorating, perhaps Miller has the edge under pressure, after all.
NOTE: Katie's run to the title ended when she was upset in the round of 32 to the #33 seed Mallory Heizel by a score of 2-and-1.