STATELINE — A year ago, Chad Pfeifer earned an invite to the American Century Championship after winning the 2013 George Bush Presidential Centers Warrior Open.
He has company this weekend, as Rod Gorman, a retired U.S. Army sergeant, was invited to this year’s event after beating Pfeifer by two shots in the most recent Warrior Open.
Pfeifer, whose left leg was amputated below the knee, had a great debut at the ACC last year, leading after the first round before eventually placing fifth.
Gorman was asked if he had a prediction for this week, and what incentive he had to beat Pfeifer again.
“All I can say is I let my golf clubs do the talking,” Gorman said amid laughter in the interview room. “I think it’s the competitive nature of the sport. I’m sure, I know for a fact he’s pretty competitive. he doesn’t like to get beat and I don’t like to get beat, so we’ll give it our best out there.”
Gorman, who has little or no use of his right arm because of a war injury, said his experience has been great so far.
“It’s been real surreal for me because like I tell everybody else, I spent 20 years trying to be the gray man, being in the corner, not having attention drawn to me,” Gorman said. “So this is a whole new facet of attention that I’m really not used to.
“The people have been awesome. The weather has been awesome. The golf course is awesome. I’m having the time of my life, and it’s been great to be here. I’ve been blessed with a heck of a privilege.”
Pfeifer said he’s only played one round with Gorman, and that was the final round of the Warrior Open.
“He’ll do well. He has a strong game,” Pfeifer said. “He’ll make some birdies and a lot of pars. We’ve been out practicing together (here).”
The duo will have a big rooting section. According to tournament officials, approximately 2,000 military tickets have been handed out.
“I’ll look forward to it,” Pfeifer said. “Like I said, I’ve had a lot of veterans come up to me, thank me. So to all of them that are out here, thank you for their service and happy to have them come out.”
LIFE CHANGES FOR PFEIFER
A lot of good things have happened to Pfeifer since he made his ACC debut last year.
“I got a lot of exposure last year with how I finished here and just getting my story out there,” Pfeifer said. “I did an audition for the Big Break and got accepted. So I did that. I was on Big Break, Palm Beaches Florida. And I ended up getting knocked out of the show in sixth place out of 12. But it was a great experience, a lot of fun.
“But it was a great time there, and the exposure from that and this, again, last year got my story out there and I got a sponsor exemption on the Web.com, the Albertson’s Boise Open just last week. So that was a really great experience for me. It gave me a chance to test my game against web.com players. I didn’t play my best, but it was a great experience.”
And, the ACC exposure helped Pfeiffer pick up a sponsor. He’s now backed by Diamond Resorts.
“I was paired with Mark Rypien, and he’s one of the ambassadors for Diamond Resorts,” Pfeiffer said. “So I got to talk to Mike Flaskey (from Diamond Resorts) and got to talking to him. They welcomed me to their family and have really been a great support for me and my career. They have helped me out quite a bit along the way.”
Looking ahead, Pfeifer plans to sign up for Q-School and hopefully qualify for next year’s Web.com Tour which means he could end up at Dayton Valley Golf Club.
“I’ll get registered for that,” Pfeifer said. “I think the deadline is the 19th of August. I’ll get set up with that, try to go through Q-School, work my way through that and hopefully get status on Web.com next year.
“If not, I’ll just plan to travel more this year and the years following to play more Monday qualifiers and try to earn a spot on to those tournaments.”
Steve Kerr, head coach of the world champion Golden State Warriors, won’t play in this event.
Kerr injured his back during the recent playoffs, forcing him to withdraw. He’s the second coach in the field to withdraw. Carolina’s Ron Rivera of the NFL didn’t want to commit to two days of pro-am and three days of competition.
Kerr had played in the tournament six times with his best finish, a 28th place tie in 2012. He still showed up for the press conference on Thursday.
“I didn’t want to miss it,” he said. “It’s too much fun.”
Fun is all Golden State had during the regular and post-season. Kerr, the rookie head coach, led the team to its first title in 40 years.
“I think I knew we would have a really good team based on what the team had done the past couple of years,” Kerr said. “But I’d be lying if I said we’d win the whole thing or thought that we would be there in the end.
“I didn’t know what to expect. So it was just a dream season. Everything went our way. Everything went perfectly. And all the way through to the end we stayed healthy and our guys played together and just had an incredibly fun run.”
The Warriors followed in the footsteps of the Giants (three World Series wins) and the 49ers.
“Yeah, there is definitely inspiration from, not only the teams in the Bay Area, but other teams and other athletes,” Kerr said. “I do think we take pride in the fact the Bay Area sports scene has been pretty impressive the last couple of years.
“The Niners have been so good, and obviously the Giants won three titles in the last five years, amazing. The A’s were in the playoffs last year. It’s a good time to be a sports fan in the Bay Area. We’re happy to give our fans a lot to cheer about.”