LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Something special is unfolding in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions celebrity pro-am division.
Chad Pfeifer, a military veteran who lost his lower left leg in the Iraq war, moved into a share of the lead Friday with defending champion John Smoltz and former tennis professional Mardy Fish. They’re at 74 points in the Modified Stableford format.
Blair O’Neal, Golf Channel’s School of Golf host, is tied for sixth, eight points back. She’s playing six months pregnant.
Pfeifer isn’t showing many nerves playing on a big TV stage, with the telecast moving from Golf Channel to NBC on the weekend.
“I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, keep having fun and keep playing golf,” Pfeifer said. “Nobody is trying to blow me up or shoot me, so life is fun.”
Pfeifer has won a pair of national amputee championships, three U.S. wounded warrior events and ranks seventh in the world among disabled golfers.
“People thank me for my service all the time,” Pfeifer said of the warm reception he’s receiving at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando. “I see a lot of Army and Marines and veterans’ hats. It’s fun.”
O’Neal’s altered swing is holding up nicely around her baby bump.
“I’ve got to get this baby through the swings,” O’Neal said. “I’ve got all this extra weight here, because I’ve really popped. He doesn’t let me hit the ball as far. So, I’m having to hit two clubs more. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but I’m just going with it.”