SPRINGFIELD — Home videos show two young girls at the driving range, learning a game where their instrument is taller than they are.
Kayla and Kylie Pfitzner are small in the present, but at seven and five years old, respectively, it was downright jarring.
“People are surprised how tiny I am,” Kayla said. “They’re like: ‘Dang you can hit it that far?’ Yeah.”
It was a chore for David Pfitzner to get his daughters to the course when they were young. The golf enthusiast wanted them to start early. Kayla rolled her eyes at the concept at the beginning, but once her sibling was old enough to join, that tune changed.
As David put it: Kylie has a two-year jump on the game, and Kayla will have to work that much harder to fend her off for the No. 1 spot at Springfield Catholic next season.
“Everyone at school says my sister is going to be number one and I bet a girl 20 dollars that she won’t.”
Kayla, a sophomore, is a pioneer for a Catholic girls golf program that is not yet two years old. She was given the option to play on the boys team entering high school, but the family pushed for a varsity girls squad to enter the fray.
“We thought no one would come out or know how to play golf but a few did and we were actually pretty good.”
Two Lady Irish golfer proceeded to reach state: Pfitzner and Allison Berke. The former turned in an all-state finish in Class 1, posting a total score of 170 to place 15th. She also took a runner-up finish at districts and third at sectionals.
It was affirmation that she could hang with the best in Missouri, and that momentum has shot her out of the gates in 2017. She already holds individual titles at the Lady Irish and Seymour Tournaments plus the Ozark Invitational.
Longtime Ozark golf coach Frank Gallant came out of retirement to lead the squad and quickly noticed Pfitzner’s unique approach to every shot.
“She wasn’t like a normal 8th grade girl swinging a golf club,” he said. “She’d take the full turn and rip at it. You play a few holes with her, even with her size, she can be intimidating.”
That approach set the bar quickly for a new program, and Gallant expects it to be raised further with Kylie as a freshman next season.
“Her goal is to beat Kayla for the No. 1 spot. Kayla iss going to lick her wounds and fend her off, I guarantee it. It’s a personal battle, which is a good thing.”
And only being a sophomore, could Pfitzner have a state title in her future?
“She could be, but time will tell. Any sport, you’ve got to get breaks. I’ve had a state champion before, and you’ve got to catch some breaks in the state tournament.”