STATELINE — Chad Pfeifer makes no bones about the fact that he wants to play professional golf.
“Absolutely,” said the 32-year-old Pfeifer, an Iraqi veteran, who lost the upper portion of his left leg in 2007 when a bomb exploded under the patrol vehicle he was driving. “As I picked up golf and started to fall in love with it and started to get better and better, it did become a dream of mine to play at a professional level.
“So I’m working towards that. Hopefully I’ll be playing on some mini -tour events in Phoenix this winter, and then hopefully just grow my game, keep getting better and reach my goal.”
Pfeifer is currently working as a club professional at Golf Club of Estrella in Goodyear, Ariz.
If Pfeifer makes it to the PGA, he would become the first amputee to do so.
“Yeah, I realize that,” said Pfeifer during Wednesday’s American Century Championship press conference at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. “But it’s not — I wouldn’t say it’s a driving factor. One of my big goals is to just use golf as a platform to help inspire people. I kind of look at it to inspire other disabled veterans coming back with disabilities.
“But anyone with disabilities, golf can be a great game to just kind of take their minds off stuff. So that’s a big thing for me to use golf to inspire people.”
Pfeifer got his first complete look at Edgewood and turned in a 4-under-par 68. Three rounds like that and he could challenge for the championship.
He admits there will be more pressure this weekend than he faced at the Warrior Open or the 2011 National Amputee Championship, but not as much pressure of being in war.
“There will be more pressure for me on this tournament,” Pfeifer said. “I mean those tournaments I played in, the Warrior Open had a pretty good crowd the first year. The last two years they kind of limited the number of people to come out. I’ll definitely feel the pressure I know that, but I look at it as if I faced more pressure overseas than I will hitting a tee shot here.”
Defending champion Billy Joe Tolliver agreed.
“He’s had people shooting at him,” Tolliver said. “I think he’ll be able to deal with this deal.
“The biggest advice we can give you is you’ve had people shooting at you. This is golf. If you miss a shot, they ain’t going to shoot at you.”
Tolliver and eight-time champ Rick Rhoden were asked what kind of advice they would give Pfeifer.
“Hit the first shot fast,” Rhoden said.
“Don’t stand there long (on the first tee),” added Tolliver. “And when you get to 17 for the first time, just hit it. Don’t wait around. If you have the honors on 17, put your peg in the ground and go.”
HANEY IN THE HOUSE
Legendary golf instructor Hank Haney, who has tutored the likes of comedian/actor Ray Romano, NBA great Charles Barkley and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, was filming on the driving range Wednesday at Edgewood.
He worked with NASCAR star Michael Waltrip, baseball great Chipper Jones and comedian Larry the Cable Guy.
Phelps, after announcing his retirement from swimming, is back in the pool on the comeback trail and not at this year’s tournament.
He finished in 84th place in his first ACC appearance last year.
Larry the Cable Guy is back for the second straight year.
Waltrip was asked what was more fun, going down a racetrack at 200 mph or golfing.
“It’s more fun driving the track at 200 mph,” Waltrip said. “But I’ve never caught on fire playing golf, either.”
Edgewood is again drawing rave reviews , especially from Rhoden and Tolliver.
“I think the course is in the best shape since we’ve been playing here,” Tolliver said. “It’s fantastic. I played Sunday, I believe it was, and I’ve never seen it in that kind of shape that early in the week. It’s just fantastic right now.
“I mean you still run into a problem late in the day as the poa annua gets to grow during the course of the day. It’s supposed to be hotter this year. It is tough to make putts on Sunday late in the day. But they have done a fantastic job. I saw them out rolling them. It’s in tip-top condition as far as I’m concerned.”
“I think it’s the best, especially from tee to green,” the former MLB pitcher said. “The fairways are really nice this year. The greens are good.”
ODDS AND ENDS
ESPN teammates and former quarterbacks Steve Young and Trent Dilfer played a practice round together ... The course will play at 6,865 yards, and Annika Sorenstam will play the same tee boxes as the men ... Tee times on Friday and Saturday go between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. from the first and 10th tees. On Sunday it will start at 8:25 a.m. ... NBC Sports Network will show the opening round from noon to 3 p.m., and the main NBC network will show Saturday and Sunday’s action starting at noon.
THE STABLEFORD SYSTEM
In case you’re rusty, the tournament is once again using the modified Stableford scoring system.
A par is worth one point, a birdie three points, an eagle six points and an ace is worth eight. A double-eagle nets a golfer 10 points. A double-bogey is minus-2.