Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Walking into a Bear Trap

     The closest most people will come to seeing “The Bear Trap” in person is probably on their annual Tiger Woods video game.
     However, one Kunkletown native recently got the chance to walk on the PGA National greens and take in the sights of the Palm Beach Gardens course.
     Matt Pfancook, a 2001 Pleasant Valley graduate and ex-National Guard, currently attends the Keiser University College of Golf in Port St. Lucie, Florida and was given the opportunity to caddy the practice round of the Honda Classic two weeks ago. A bunch of students from the school, 65 in all, were able to volunteer their time and services in exchange for a chance to be amongst PGA professionals as well as see the famed Champion Course first-hand.
     Pfancook ‘teed off’ at the offer.
     “I jumped at the chance,” said Pfancook. “Four amateurs and their caddies were paired up with one pro. I got to caddy for Jim Odenbach, who is an operating golf partner of the PGA National. Robert Allenby was the pro in our group and he was a lot of fun.”
     Though Pfancook was manning the bag for an amateur in a fun practice-day event, he admitted he wasn’t asked for much advice.
     “(Odenbach) didn’t ask me,” joked Pfancook. “Our school actually warned us before we went. They said our motto was ‘Show up, shut up and walk.’”
    Allenby is a four-time winner on the PGA tour. Ironically, his last win came in September of 2001 when he won the Marconi Pennsylvania Classic in Farmington.
     Pfancook said the experience was unlike any other and that he took a lot away from the day.
     “It gave me a new perspective on everything,” said Pfancook. “You see these guys on television and they seem like they are larger than life. They are these big stars playing in front of everyone. But when you are out there walking with them you realize they are humans just like us.
     “It gave me a lot of inspiration. It made me feel like I can get that far someday.”
     Although Pfancook’s dream is to one day play on the tour, he admitted that his university has taught him a lot about the game of golf and what it takes to be one of the best in the world.
     “When I graduate, I would like to try to become a head pro somewhere,” Pfancook said. “Going to this school makes you realize how tough it is to actually make it on the tour. While I dream about playing golf at the highest level, I know it is probably very unlikely.
     “After I blew out my knee playing for the NEPA Miners a few years ago, I decided that I wanted to teach golf for a living. I want to teach kids, so that is what I am hoping to do.”
     Pfancook played golf at Pleasant Valley in 2000. After high school he considered himself a weekend golfer, however his talent was never in question. Since he began attending the Keiser University a year and a half ago he has dropped six strokes off his score and currently sits at a three handicap. Still, he was quick to admit that golf in Florida is a lot different than golf in Pennsylvania when one considers things such as air density and course design (more flat with more water).
     As for “The Bear Trap,” it is a stretch of three holes that Pfancook will never forget.
     “It was awesome,” Pfancook said. “There is a big bear statue right by the 15th tee box and Allenby stuck a ball in its mouth. It was funny and we were all having a good time.
     “It was crazy to walk on the greens in the midst of the tour atmosphere. It is something that will stick with me for a long time.”