STATELINE — Chad Pfeifer freely admits playing in the American Century Championship has changed his life.
Pfeifer won the George W. Bush Wounded Warrior tournament to qualify for the ACC four years ago, and he actually led the tournament after the first round in 2014, his first appearance at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, before finishing fifth.
Pfeifer followed that with a ninth place finish in 2015.
After missing the event last year, he’s looking forward to this year’s tournament, and he spent a few moments talking about what’s going on in his life these days.
“It’s been a crazy ride for sure,” Pfeifer said. “The exposure I got from this tournament really led to a lot of great things. One being The Big Break which aired two years ago on the Golf Channel. The exposure has kind of built up and my name’s got out there. Not a ton of recognition when I’m out on the streets, but every once in a while people come up and say, ‘I watched you on TV and either on Big Break or a lot of people said in Tahoe.’
“And so it’s just cool. The really cool part about that is people are seeing wounded veterans do great things. And that’s kind of been my main goal since I started playing golf, competitively, is to just get the exposure out there for other veterans. If other veterans can pick up golf and enjoy it like I have, hopefully they’ll get some opportunities like I have. But it’s just great to get my story out there and to help other wounded veterans. It’s been a crazy journey.”
Giving back is first and foremost with Pfeifer.
“I do a lot of stuff with Feherty’s Troops First Foundation, and really get to be around and kind of hang out with a lot of other wounded veterans,” Pfeifer said. “Some haven’t golfed and are just getting into it and others are more experienced golfers, and we can have a nice competition.
“And then my caddie here this week, his name is Adam Benza, he and I as well as two other amputee golfers, have started up a nonprofit called Moving Foreword. It helps anybody with a disability get into the game of golf. I am kind of the military liaison in that aspect. I love helping out wounded vets.”
Pfeifer says he has always wanted to inspire people, and he’s done that.
“I have also had people with disabilities come up to me and tell me that I’ve inspired them, and so it made sense to help everybody not just wounded vets,” he said. “One of the great things about this tournament is just having people come up to me and want to thank me for my service. That first year I was out here, I had a couple of different instances when people with prosthetics came up to me and told me how cool it was to see me out there. So it’s been a life-changer for me.”
Simply put, Pfeifer has been able to turn a negative to a positive.
“I’ve turned something tragic in my life and kind of made, put a positive spin on it, and I’ve used the game of golf to grow that awareness for people and to use it to my advantage,” he said.
There are a handful of great pairings for today’s first round.
The marquee pairing (10:10 a.m. off No. 1) is two-time defending champ Mark Mulder playing with two-time champ Jack Wagner and ex-tennis great Mardy Fish, who has posted two top-5 finishes. Right in front of them, and sure to have one of the biggest galleries, is the trio of Justin Timberlake, Alfonso Ribeiro and ex-49er great Jerry Rice.
The three former Atlanta pitchers — John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux — are going off No. 1 at 9:30 followed by the QB trio of John Elway, Alex Smith and Tony Romo at 9:40. Golden State star Steph Curry is paired with Aaron Rodgers and Joe Pavelski of the Sharks at 9:50.
Another trio of quarterbacks — Trent Dilfer, two-time champ Mark Rypien and Joe Theismann — go off No. 10 at 9:35. Former NBA greats Dell Curry, Derek Fisher and Jason Kidd are off early at 8:05 on No. 10.
GOLFERS TO WATCH
According to Jeremy Roenick and Fish, spectators should keep an eye on Ray Allen and Pavelski this week.
Pavelski finished 10th in his ACC debut last year, totaling 48 points (17-17-14). Allen didn’t play in last year’s event, but was 37th in 2013.
“That Ray Allen is a phenomenal golfer,” Fish said. “He actually had the lead down in Diamond Resorts in January going into the last round and had it by a large margin.”
Fish said Allen had nine birdies and shot a 65 in one of his rounds.
“Last year was his (Pavelski) first year here,” Roenick said. “I’ve played a lot of golf with him. He can move his golf ball and he hits a lot of fairways, makes a lot of putts, and I’m looking at 20-to-1. I could see him being in the top 5 this year, too.”
NEWCOMERS IN THE FIELD
There are seven first-time entrants — Paige Spiranac, former Lakers star Derek Fisher, Rams quarterback Jared Goff, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, NHL goalie Carey Price, Minnesota Viking Adam Thielen and former Raiders great Charles Woodson.
THE BROADCAST CREW
Steve Sands will serve as host of the broadcast team with Peter Jacobsen. They will be in the 18th tower. Jimmy Roberts will be in an outer tower spot, while Notah Begay and Charlie Rymer will be reporting from inside the ropes. Michelle Tafoya will interview the celebrities and athletes on the wild and whacky par-3 17th.
The 17th could be even more crazy this year. There isn’t as much beach on the 17th, which means the fans in their boats may be even closer to the action.