PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Ret. Cpl. Chad Pfeifer of Scottsdale, Ariz., who lost his left leg in service to his country in Iraq and is now a member of the PGA of America's Professional Golf Management Program, captured the inaugural Warrior Open, Oct. 11, in Irving, Texas.
Pfeifer, who has played golf 4 1/2 years, posted rounds of 75 and 78 at Las Colinas Country Club to win the 36-hole event by nine strokes. Pfeifer was presented a trophy by Warrior Open event host, former President George W. Bush, whose event honored the men and women of our nation's Armed Forces who have sacrificed to protect America's freedoms.
Pfeifer, 30, who serves as an apprentice professional at Tatum Valley Golf Club in Cave Valley, Ariz., dominated a field of 20 Wounded Warriors who gained a berth in the event through having at least a golf handicap of 15 or lower and who were severely wounded during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).
Pfeifer, who won the 2011 National Amputee Golf Championship, admitted that he felt the pressure of the event. "I had not played in such a big event as this, and it was a little nerve-wracking with President Bush watching a lot of my tee shots. However, I felt like a Tour professional from the start. It was run as close to a PGA event as possible."
A native of Manchester, N.H., Pfeifer lost his left leg above the knee on April 12, 2007, when the truck that he was a passenger was hit with a pressure plate IED during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His right foot was fractured in the explosion. Following more than a year in recovery and learning to walk on a prosthetic leg, Pfeifer picked up golf as a form of therapy. "I fell in love with it," said Pfeifer. "I had wanted to be a professional baseball player. Once I got into golf, and then into a tournament, my goal was to win it."
Upon receiving the trophy from the former president, Pfeifer beamed and said, "This one being the first one, it's an honor to get it, but to all of our brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate sacrifice, this one's for them."
The 20-member field included seven veterans that graduated from the Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA) program in Olney, Md., and coached by 2010 Patriot Award recipient, PGA Professional Jim Estes.
"It was a tremendous experience, and the highlight for me was being with the Wounded Warriors at the Bush home and to meet President Bush and his wife," said Estes. "President Bush was the greatest host. The Wounded Warriors played a very challenging course for anyone wearing prosthetics and you could see how hard it was for many of them. I thought the practice round was special, too. Greg Norman showed up on a rainy day and played three holes with each of the veterans."
The Warrior Open was the second of two inaugural events, following the W10OK, of the George W. Bush Presidential Center's Military Service initiative emphasizing the importance of sports – including mountain biking and golf – to the rehabilitation process for many of those seriously injured on the front lines.
"The purpose of the Warrior Open is to celebrate those who have served our country, and to remind our fellow citizens how fortunate we are to have men and women volunteer in the face of danger," said Bush. "I knew I would be impressed by the courage of our warriors. I will tell you this tournament has exceeded my expectations."
Among those attending the Warrior Open was former Ryder Cup Captain Ben Crenshaw, who addressed the 20-member field and guests at a dinner the night before the final round on the Southern Methodist University campus. Crenshaw cited the value of golf in his life, the influence of his teacher, PGA Golf Professional Hall of Famer Harvey Penick and the sacrifice of veterans.
"Just as a special circle of circumstances led me to great things in golf," said Crenshaw, "A tragic circle of events led these veterans to accomplish great things and be an inspiration to us all."
LPGA legend Kathy Whitworth was a guest starter at the first tee for the final round, and country pop band, Rascal Flats, performed at the dinner and sang the national anthem before the final round.
PGA of America President Allen Wronowski, a guest of President Bush, called the Warrior Open "One of the highlights of my professional career."
"It was tremendous to be among President Bush and see his ability to connect with the veterans and let them feel how much he appreciated their sacrifice," said Wronowski. "There are so many great moments in an event of this magnitude and a lot of people who worked hard to make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the veterans. It was exciting to see these veterans compete, and the support they received from the gallery gave them that extra dose of adrenaline. Everyone was pretty shocked to see so many great shots struck on the No. 1 tee."
PGA Professional Andy Weissinger of Fort Eustis, Va., the 2009 Patriot Award recipient was one of the individuals involved in the final selection process for the Warrior Open field.
"It was a great few days where Wounded Warriors were treated like Tour professionals from the start. The players were overwhelmed by the reception," said Weissinger. "I talked to several sponsors and they called it a thrill of a lifetime. What is great that I found that all 20 of the golfers had at least some contact with a PGA Professional to get them to enjoying the game."
The Warrior Open recognized the many organizations across the country that supports the men and women of the military and their families. The Bush Center highlighted those with Open contestants: Hope For the Warriors®, Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA), Semper Fi Fund, and the Troops First Foundation.
The Warrior Open was presented by The George W. Bush Presidential Center; hosted by ClubCorp and Las Colinas Country Club; and supported by American Airlines, TaylorMade Golf, Omni Hotels & Resorts; Mercedes-Benz, adidas-Ashworth; Ewing Automotive Group and BRIGGS Equipment. The Open also gave special recognition to the USGA, the Northern Texas PGA Section, the PGA Tour, the Texas Golf Association, and the Women's Texas Golf Association.Ret. Cpl. Chad Pfeifer, a PGA of America Apprentice, Captures Title in the Inaugural Warrior Open