STATELINE, Nev. (AP) — Chad Pfeifer, who lost his left leg above the knee serving in Iraq, earned a Stableford total of 24 points to take the first-round lead over a group including former LPGA great Annika Sorenstam on Friday at the American Century Championship.
Former NHL star Jeremy Roenick finished with a total of 23 points for second place while former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien is third with 22 points.
Annika Sorenstam finished 1 under for a Stableford total of 21 points in her first competitive round since retirement and is tied for fourth. Defending champion Billy Joe Tolliver, a former NFL quarterback, finished 4 over for a total of 16 points at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Pfeifer, who is attempting to become the first professional tournament golfer to use a prosthetic limb, opened his round with a bogey on his first hole, but had birdies on four and five. His 18 hold score was 70.
“There was a lot of nerves, that’s for sure,” Pfeifer said. “Just tried to play my own game and just tried to play steady golf. I knew doubles (bogeys) are no good, obviously, but as long as I could eliminate those and play par golf, I’ll be fine. I’ll make some birdies and hopefully don’t give anything back with bad holes.”
He birdied the par-3 17th in front of the raucous lakeside crowd. A newcomer to the event, Pfeifer won three straight Warrior Opens, a 36-hole tournament that honors servicemen and women.
He’s become the feel-good story of the week, but what made him feel good was the veterans that he has been able to meet.
“I played well, but the experience I’ve had the last few days, had some Vietnam-era guys come up and thank me, and it’s really cool to get thanks from them,” Pfeifer said. “They’re the ones that should be getting the thanks because the way they were treated paved the way for how we’ve been treated.”
Sorenstam is tied with Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic, three points off Pfeifer’s lead.
Sorenstam played steady in her first tournament golf since retiring at the end of the 2008 LPGA Tour season, finding her rhythm on the back nine. After shaking off the rust, she’s still hoping for a win on Sunday.
“I was tight early on. I mean, I felt it, I don’t know, I was holding back for really no reason. Maybe because I don’t play and I’m rusty,” Sorenstam said. “It doesn’t matter where I am today, there’s only one place on Sunday.”
Fan favorite Charles Barkley finished ahead of only one person, U.S. women’s hockey forward Hilary Knight. Barkley totaled negative-32 points with a 34-over total of 106. Knight didn’t fare much better, shooting 108 (negative-36).
The 54-hole tournament, featuring a $600,000 purse and a $125,000 first prize, will continue Saturday with the second round of play.