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Pfeiffer golf finds new success in Div. III ranks

Pfeiffer golf has had success in the past as a program, including a ninth-place finish in the nation in Division II golf.

Now that the Falcons are a full Div. III school, Pfeiffer has enjoyed one of the team’s most successful seasons.

In 2021, Pfeiffer is ranked No. 4 in Div. III as of this week and has won three tournaments this season, the Diamond Mars Hill Spring Invitational, Pfeiffer’s own Invitational at Hilton Head Lakes, South Carolina, and the Johnson and Wales University Spring Invitational in Matthews at Emerald Lakes.

The Falcons are led by Kevin Burris, who transferred to South Stanly his senior year in enough time to golf for the Bulls. Burris became the highest finisher in golf in the school’s history, finishing tied for ninth in 2018.

This season, Burris is third overall in the nation in Div. III as an individual and has the lowest scoring average (68.04) of any golfer in the division.

Playing golf for fun was Burris’ choice, he said, adding being able to practice at Piney Point in Norwood was part of the reason he wanted to play for South.

Burris, who was homeschooled until going to South, grew up in Myrtle Beach and played from seventh to 10th grade at Carolina Forest.

As a homeschooler, Burris could get his work done and practiced golf up to nine and 10 hours a day.

The Pfeiffer sophomore said getting used to college life was good so far in his two seasons. He said he was thankful to have courses like Old North State Club on which to play.

Burris said the best part of his game right now is chipping; he added he has been trying to work on the mental side of golf.

He said work on the mental game included “getting my head in it and not losing focus, trying to stay in a calm state.”

Burris credits Pfeiffer head coach David Gianferante for “pushing us to be the best, especially with grades. Golf is second; grades are always first.”

He added Gianferante said to the players, “make sure to choose your own path. Don’t let anyone choose it for you.”

This season, Burris said, the players have come together like a family, motivating each other and helping with each other’s swings.

Burris said it has been important to stay focused on golf despite the COVID rules, or playing with teammates as opposed to similar seeded golfers from other teams.

Gianferante, who has been the Falcons’ golf coach since 2014, said he was not in favor of the pod setting for competition. He said one-seeds playing against other ones was more conducive to competition. However, all the schools are in the same boat which the coach said everyone is “trying to do the best they can and play golf.”

The coach downplays his role in the team’s success this year.

“You can’t cook the meal without the groceries,” Gianferante said. “It comes down really to the players…players win championships. This group has been kind enough to let me tag along.”

The Pfeiffer coach knows about championships at the high school level. In his time with Notre Dame Academy in Massachusetts, his teams won 11 consecutive state championships and had 10 undefeated seasons.

Burris has the passion for the game, Gianferante said, adding it is not something anyone can teach a player.

“Kevin is an elite player. One good thing about Kevin is he’s been a great example,” Gianferante said. “When you get to the next level, everyone can play. The intangible is work ethic…the next level is so complicated, with travel, workouts and tournaments.”

There is no substitute for talent, the Pfeiffer coach said. However, drive and discipline make players elite.

Coaching is a little of everything at the college level, Gianferante said. He teaches some fundamentals, including grip and swing, and the game is not that complicated.

“I don’t think (players) understand course management and taking what the golf course (gives you),” the coach said. “(Golf) is a marathon. It’s not a sprint.”

Gianferante said the team has developed a little quicker than he thought, adding “it’s a total testament to the kids.”

Treating the players fairly and evenly is also important, he added.

“Everybody’s the same, whether you’re the last or the first player…I’m old school, which doesn’t always fit in this generation, but hopefully they’ll think of me as someone that is very consistent in what I do.”

Respecting student-athletes is important, he said. “Everyone should be under the same rules.”

The coach said he also wants players to respect others on campus from maintenance workers, professors, cafeteria staff or administration.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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