A validating win
The summer of 1972 was an important one for Mark Pfeil. The 21-year-old amateur golfer had put together a pretty successful junior golf career, one that had been rewarded with a spot on the USC golf team. But individual wins had been hard to come by on a larger scale, and he wondered where his ability fit on the national scene.
“I knew I was a good player, but I didn’t know how good,” said Pfeil. “I was a solid local golfer, but for me, that summer really thrust me into the national scene.”
His summer began with a win at the 1972 SCGA Amatuer Championship at The Los Angeles CC and Hillcrest CC.
“It was an important victory for me,” he said. “By winning that event, which had such a great field, I felt like I was starting to see some results.”
Pfeil shot a final round 70 at Hillcrest CC to edge out his good friend Craig Stadler.
“Craig was a great teammate and friend,” Pfeil said. “To beat someone of his caliber to win a tournament was really nice.”
Pfeil would keep the momentum going, following up his SCGA victory with a win at the Pacific Coast Amateur.
“I absolutely think those two victories helped me make the Walker Cup the following year,” he said. “That summer did a lot for me confidence-wise … showed me what kind of player I could be.”
The success took Pfeil to the PGA TOUR, when he advanced through Q-School in 1975. He would remain on TOUR for 15 years, until a back injury forced him to pursue other opportunities. On TOUR, Pfeil collected his only win at the 1980 Tallahassee Open. He would also earn a T25 finish at the 1982 PGA Championship, his best finish in a major.
“TOUR life was exciting,” he said. “It’s one of those things that I look at now and realize how much I enjoyed the time that I was a part of it. The comradery on TOUR was really good. It was always a struggle though. Each year you start with nothing, and have to re-earn your spot. But it was a nice feeling at the end of the year knowing you had played well enough to come back.”
In addition to living the life of a traveling professional, Pfeil was a family man, having gotten married to his now-wife of 40 years just before starting his first year on TOUR. The couple would have their first child five years later.
“We played the TOUR together, my wife and I, for five years without kids,” he said. “Then we had two daughters, and are really just an extremely close knit family so that was very important for me.”
These days, with both his daughters living close by to his Palos Verdes home, family is just as important as ever to Pfeil, who less than two years ago became a grandpa to his grandson Luke.
“I pick him up a couple of times a week and take him here to Palos Verdes GC, where I’ve been a lifelong member,” said Pfeil, who still plays golf three to four times a week. “We come to the course, go for a cart ride, feed the ducks. I’ve found that it’s a place where we can come and spend a few hours together and have a great time.”
In addition to spending time with Luke, Pfeil is still working, having taken a job with Toyota/Lexus 25 years ago running corporate golf outings.
“It’s the best of both worlds, really,” said Pfeil. “I represent a company that is involved with golf, and I believe in their products. I’m able to stay in golf and keep my game sharp because of it, and I’m so thankful for that opportunity.”
He is also very involved with the company Logistics, which raises a significant amount of money for SCGA Junior.
“It’s been really fun to get involved with SCGA Junior,” said Pfeil. “What it is doing for the future of golf is great, and the kids involved with the program are fantastic. I’ve had a great experience there.”
Remaining in the Southern California golf scene has also allowed Pfeil to stay up-to-date on the local amateur golf scene he once dominated.
“It’s so nice to see West Coast players getting the attention they deserve,” said Pfeil. “I was really one of the few from California to make the Walker Cup team back in my day, and now the West Coast seems to be well represented each time. The talent around here is amazing. You look at a trophy like the SCGA Amateur and see your name alongside some of the great players. It’s really an elite field to be part of.”