STATELINE — Going into the 25th annual American Century Championship, Chad Pfeifer was the feel-good story.
The first-time ACC entrant lost part of his left leg in 2007 while serving with the Army in Iraq. He took up golf as part of his rehab effort and turned himself into a scratch golfer with hopes of turning professional.
Now, Pfeifer is more than a feel-good story line. He’s the real deal.
Pfeifer leads the 86-player field with 24 points after Friday’s first round at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Former hockey great Jeremy Roenick recorded a birdie and six pars in an eight-hole stretch to record 23 points. Former champ Mark Rypien is third with 22.
Former NHL great Joe Sakic is fourth with 21 along with Golden State Warrior guard Steph Curry and pre-tournament favorite Annika Sorenstam. Jacksonville Jaguar Josh Scobee, ex-NFL tight end Sterling Sharpe and ex-NFL running back Marshall Faulk are tied for sixth with 20 points. Another ACC first-timer, Mardy Fish, is a point behind that group with 19 points along with ACC veteran Jack Wagner and ex-NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer.
His round didn’t surprise the quietly confident Pfeifer.
“Yeah, if I could play steady golf, I figured I’d be close to the hunt or in the hunt or close to the leader,” Pfeifer said. “But just go into tomorrow the same way I went today and just try to play good golf. I’ll try not worrying about being on top of the leaderboard.
“Didn’t remember much (about the round). There were a lot of nerves, that’s for sure. I just tried to play my own game and just tried to play steady golf. So I knew doubles are no good, obviously. But as long as I could eliminate a lot of bogeys and if I can play par golf, I’d make some birdies and hopefully don’t give any back with doubles.”
Pfeifer parred 11 through 13 and then dropped in a birdie putt on No. 14. After a bogey at No. 15, Pfeifer parred the par-5 16th, birdied the par-3 17th and parred No. 18.
Roenick got off to a rough start with bogeys on the first two holes. He got back on track with consecutive birdie at Nos. 3 and 4 plus another at 6. He finished the front side with 13 points. He added back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 to get to 23 points, and he probably had thoughts of finishing the first round on top.
However, he missed the green on the par-3 17 and settled for a bogey. He carded a bogey on No. 18, missing a 5-foot putt.
“It was a crazy round for me,” Roenick said. “I got to the first tee thinking that my first hole is going to dictate where my round is going to go and I 3-putted the first hole, made bogey.
“And then I came up to the second hole and I hit it in a good spot, but hit a bad shot and actually made bogey. So I bogeyed the first two holes, and I’m sitting there thinking I’m in trouble. And you bear down and make birdie on 3 and 4 and all of a sudden you’re back in it. I make birdie on 6 and all of a sudden things start to change.”
Roenick said he was trying to stay at level par throughout the round.