World Golf Hall of Famer Walters wins Seated Division by 18 shots; Villanueva wins Senior Division Title
PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida – As expected, Chad Pfeifer won the Fifth United States Disabled Open on May 10 at PGA Golf Club for the second time in the last three years. But the way the dominant player in disabled golf won another title was so unexpected.
Pfeifer of Nampa, Idaho, started the final round tied for the lead, but found himself three shots behind after eight holes to Jeremy Bittner – who was a scorching 4-under through his first six holes. Plus, Pfeifer didn’t make a birdie on the Ryder Course for the second consecutive day.
“I wouldn’t think there was any way I wouldn’t make a birdie,” said Pfeifer, who made six in the first round.
What mattered, however, was Pfeifer kept making pars and eventually Bittner gave him an opening that Pfeifer charged through. For the second consecutive day, Pfeifer made 16 pars and two bogeys for a 73 that gave him a two-shot victory over Bittner. Pfeifer, who lost part of his right leg while serving in the Army in Iraq in 2007, finished at 4-over 217.
“It means a lot to win,” Pfeifer said. “I know I have a target on my back because a lot of guys are looking to try and beat me. That doesn’t always make it easy.”
Bailey Bish, of Tucson, Arizona, won the women’s overall title for her first victory in a 54-hole disabled event. She shot her best round of the week, an 88, to beat Kelsey Koch by eight shots.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Bish, who suffers from dystonia on her right side and uses crutches to get around the course. “Three years ago, I couldn’t even play nine holes, much less win a 54-hole tournament. I am so proud because I have worked really hard the last three years.”
World Golf Hall of Famer Dennis Walters of Jupiter, Florida, won the Seated Division by 18 shots at 28-over.
Eliseo Villanueva was hoping to defend his title after he started the final round tied with Pfeifer, but he bogeyed the first two holes and finished third after a 77.
The consolation for the 56-year-old from Fayetteville, North Carolina, was he won the overall Senior Division title.
“I’m happy with the way I played all week,” Villanueva said. “I think the nerves got me on the first couple holes. But I settled down and made a lot of good pars.”
Five-time PGA Tour winner Ken Green of West Palm Beach, Florida, shot 73 and finished tied for fourth with Jack Bonifant at 9-over 222.
Bittner made it look easy early in his round, as he tried to improve on last year’s runner-up finish to Villanueva. Bittner birdied the first hole, eagled the par-5 fourth hole when he holed a 50-yard chip and birdied the sixth to take the three-shot lead.
“It was fun to watch,” Pfeifer said, “but it was not fun to be on the opposite end of it.”
But Bittner’s lead vanished when he made a triple bogey at the par-4 ninth, after he couldn’t find his tee shot. He made a bogey on his second tee ball.
“Just a bad swing at 9,” said Bittner, who lost a part of his left leg when he was 4 due to a lawnmower accident. “No excuses; I just pulled it. There’s a big mental adjustment you need to make after coming off that hot start.”
Bittner fought back with birdies at the 10th and 13th holes, but five bogeys on the back nine had him settling for another second-place finish.
“It’s always fun to be in the mix, to have that rush of adrenaline everyone who plays competitively wants to have,” Bittner said. “It was an emotional roller coaster, but congrats to Chad. He played solid. He kept his head down, and he earned it.”
Pfeifer took the lead for good when Bittner bogeyed the 15th hole. Another bogey by Bittner at the 17th hole allowed Pfeifer to play the final hole conservatively with a bogey.
One of Pfeifer’s skills is his unflappability during a round. He never gets too up or too down.
You would have never known, for instance, he didn’t make a birdie in his last 36 holes by his actions on the golf course.
“I’m sure some of that is through my military training,” Pfeifer said. “If I hit a bad shot, nobody is shooting at me.”
The United States Disabled Open is run by the US Disabled Golf Association with the PGA of America serving as Presenting Partner of the Championship.