KENT, Ohio – Ohio golfing legend Ben Curtis is passing on his expertise to the next generation.
Curtis, who defied the 300-to-1 odds to win the Open Championship in 2003, has the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders poised for a deep playoff run in his first season as head coach.
The local hero walks in the footsteps of legends at Roosevelt High School. A member of the Pfeiffer family has led the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders golf team for 41 of 50 seasons since 1971.
From 1971 to 1995, it was Dick Pfeiffer. He amassed a record of 452-94, winning 17 league titles in 25 years. In 2002 his son Brent Pfeiffer began his first stint with Kent golf. This lasted until 2012. His second stint was from 2017 until his retirement in May. He finished his career with a 214-32 record, surpassing his father’s 82.78 winning percentage with an 86.99 percent rating. The young Pfeiffer won eight league titles in 16 seasons and had an individual state qualifier at Mandi Morrow, before women’s golf became an OHSAA sport in 2006 and 2007.
This kind of consistency is rare for any program. Roosevelt athletic director Ben Dunlap knew he had to hit the mark when hiring a replacement. Fortunately, he knew exactly who to call for work.
“A few years ago (Curtis) was one of our college basketball coaches, so he coaches in our district. … I know how he is as a person, as a professional and as a coach, and for me that was absolute no-brainer,” Dunlap said. “He’s been with our kids, he’s been with our scheme, the Ben Curtis Foundation has been in Kent since 2013. His wife, Candace, before we had a girls’ team, played on the boys’ team when she was in high school. … We are extremely lucky that they call Kent home and that our community means so much to them.
Curtis, a 2000 graduate of Kent State University, turned pro the same year after earning his bachelor’s degree. The 2003 Open Championship was the first of four PGA Tour wins for Curtis. He made over 124 cuts and is one of only three, including John Cook and Arnold Palmer, to have won the Ohio Amateur two years in a row (1999 and 2000).
Now he will try to help guide the Rough Riders to a deep run in the OHSAA golf playoffs. And add another family heirloom to the legendary program.
“Our son Liam playing on the team, I think, was a big part of it,” Curtis said of the allure of the job. “(Brent Pfeiffer) decided at the end of the school year that he wanted to retire, focus on his family. So I got a call from DA about a week later. He said: ‘You are interested ?’ And I said, “Of course,” because my son is on the team and everything.
“With my golf academy and everything going on, I thought it would be a good thing to do and a fun thing to do. They are good children and I had a lot of fun helping them as best I could.
Liam is a standout sophomore for the Rough Riders. He was the individual champion in the Tannenhauf section last year and has been a force for Kent Roosevelt so far this year. In this second Suburban League tournament of the season, finished tied for first place in the American Conference after shooting a 73 at Pine Hills.
“It’s not much different, it’s pretty much the same, he’s the coach,” Liam said of his father who coached the team this year. “At first it’s a little weird, but you get used to it because he’s your father. And it’s as if we were all one. He teaches us everything, it’s not like he doesn’t teach anyone.
Close behind Liam in fourth and fifth at the league event were teammates Christian Mineo and Gavin Leslie. Their 77 and 78, respectively, helped Roosevelt earn first place in the American Conference.
“I love Coach Curtis,” Leslie said. “He has a very down-to-earth competitiveness and it’s just very chill compared to years past where we train five days a week, five hours a day. I would say it’s a lot more fun. We have fun a lot more and it’s a lot less stressful. For my senior year, I’m enjoying it a lot more.
Through his golf academy, Curtis had already shifted his focus from playing to teaching, not only giving back to the game he loves, but helping young golfers come to learn the game on and off the course and share its wealth of experience in all fields. fields of sport.
“I got through that age playing at a high level but not having a lot of guidance other than my family, who, even though they were in the golf world, didn’t really know how to navigate it all,” Curtis said. . “Everything was new to them. … I know what it was for me and how hard it was, but I just love being able to guide these kids. Even if they don’t pursue it, maybe they’re getting into the business. Maybe they want to be a pro or work in the field or stuff like that.
Yet playing in high school is very different from playing competitively throughout the year. Curtis understands the mentality and confidence aspect better than anyone, but his new challenge will be to galvanize a group at different levels of golf development in order to make a playoff run.
“We always try to train together, play together. We had a lot of tournaments, but we didn’t have a lot of time to practice like that,” Curtis said. “But to do more of that stuff, a team bond on the trip and we talk, but at the same time when they’re playing, they just say, ‘Hey, so-and-so’s doing great’ and kind of try to getting them to root for each other. I know everyone wants to be the top scorer, but we also want our team to be successful. It’s a fine line. You want to root for them and have fun.