Pfeifer hopes to provide inspiration for golfers, non-golfers alike

Chad Pfeifer, who lost his left leg during a U.S. Army deployment in Iraq, played on a sponsor's exemption in the Web.com Tour's Albertsons Boise Open in July. He shot 75-76 but missed the cut. Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty Images

You can get pretty jaded being a sports fan these days.

Go check the headlines. Unlawful athletes, bumbling coaches, meddling team owners. Just keeping up with the news can become a cringe-worthy process.

As a fan, it's important to maintain some perspective, to remember why you were drawn to sports in the first place and to have some inspiration.

My inspiration is Chad Pfeifer.

Pfeifer was a good athlete growing up in Idaho. He competed in most sports, but gravitated toward baseball, eventually playing collegiately, first at Blue Mountain Community College, then at Northwest Nazarene. While he was there, 9/11 happened.

"I felt like I needed to do something," he says now.

So upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Pfeifer went to basic training and jump school, then deployed to Iraq in 2006 as part of the 3/509th Airborne Infantry Battalion. Within a year, he witnessed four improvised explosive device, or IED, explosions.

The fifth one, on April 12, 2007, near Iskandariyah, Iraq resulted in the loss of his left leg, just above the knee.

He was flown from Iraq to Germany for a few surgeries, then returned to the U.S., where he spent a few days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. From there, Pfeifer was moved to Fort Sam Houston for therapy and rehab at Brooke Army Medical Center.

Because his right heel was also fractured and he couldn't put weight on that foot, it took nearly four months until he could be fitted for a prosthetic leg. Once he was, a new friend offered a crazy suggestion.

Christian Bagge was an Army staff sergeant who had lost both of his legs -- one just above the knee, one just below. He told Pfeifer that playing golf had not only helped his recovery, but also had reignited his desire to compete once again. Then Bagge invited him to play.

"He wasn't overly excited about the idea," Bagge recalls. "He's a big, tough guy. I think he had a different vision for himself."

Despite having rarely played golf even before his amputation, Pfeifer decided to join him. So they went to Fort Sam Houston Golf Club, two men missing three legs due to combat wounds, just heading out for a little practice session.

That first day was a tragicomic mess. While he was holding a large bucket of range balls, Pfeifer's prosthetic broke, sending him to the ground with the balls flying in every direction.

Undeterred, they returned the next weekend. And the weekend after that. Again and again, as Pfeifer first started with chipping and putting to help get accustomed to the prosthetic. He then graduated to full shots.

Like so many other golfers, he owned a self-taught swing. And like so many others, he fell completely in love with the game.

Once discharged from Fort Sam Houston, Pfeifer returned to Idaho, where he got a job working at Falcon Crest Golf Club. He kept playing and improved to about a 6 handicap when he started looking to compete in tournaments. The first one he ever played was the 2009 National Amputee Golf Championship.

Two years later, he won it.

A few months after that, he played in the Warrior Open, hosted by President George W. Bush.

Won that, too.

"I had a lot of people reach out to me," Pfeifer remembers. "A lot of the other soldiers were saying it was really cool that I wasn't letting anything slow me down. I thought maybe I could use golf to help other veterans overcome their injuries."

It was around this time that Pfeifer started dreaming big. He wanted to become a professional golfer.

So he did. Turned pro. Started playing in tournaments in late-2011. Not amputee events -- tournaments against other likeminded golfers with dreams of someday playing on the PGA Tour.

Now that's his dream.

"If a guy missing his leg can compete on the highest level, if even one person can use that as motivation, then I know I'm making an impact," he says.

Pfeifer has yet to compete on the PGA Tour, but he's played in pro-ams, a Web.com Tour event and countless other competitive ventures, including Golf Channel's "Big Break" reality show. This week, he'll be playing in the Diamond Resorts Invitational in Windermere, Florida, amongst a field of athletes and celebrities that is a who's who of famous people.

If any of them need inspiration, they can look to their fellow competitor -- a man who didn't seriously take up golf until his leg was amputated and now has sights on playing at the highest level.

As for Pfeifer, he's gotten all the inspiration he needs from the sport itself.

"I still battle with depression," he says. "To be honest with you, I could be one of those statistics, someone who ended his life. Golf has saved my life. Ever since I got injured and was introduced to it, it's been the constant in my life that keeps me positive. It keeps me moving forward. I'm just thankful for the opportunity."