11 April 2019

New Kid on the Block Alexander Victor Schauffele

In January, a new name popped up amongst the World’s Top 10 players. Twenty-five-year-old Alexander Victor Schauffele, known as Xander Schauffele, made the big climb from the 352nd position in June 2017 to 7th in January 2019. 

For the past two years, Xander Schauffele has set his expectations sky-high. After earning his PGA Tour card at the end of 2016, Schauffele (pronounced: SHA-fa-lee) finished his 2017 season debut with two wins and claimed the rookie-of-the-year award. After claiming another title at the World Golf Championships last year, Schauffele added the Sentry Tournament of Champions title to his growing list of accomplishments in January and became No. 7 in the World rankings.
Schauffele first made the public sit up and take notice at the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills. A sectional qualifier out of Memphis, Schauffele opened with a 66 in the first round and finished T5 in the final round. With the media wondering who he was, Schauffele somehow still managed to remain out of the spotlight until he ascended into the Top 10 this January.

We’re taking a look at the backstory of the newest member of the golfing elite:

What was Schauffele’s journey from junior to professional like?
Compared to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas who were stars in the American Junior Golf Association, Schauffele was a little known player. He only took part in local events in Southern California. During his college years, Schauffele played for Long Beach State for a year before transferring to San Diego State where he won three times and became an All-American in his senior season. After graduating in 2015, Schauffele turned pro and earned himself two sponsor exemptions on the Tour in his first year as a pro in 2016. A year later, he earned his PGA Tour card.

What nationality is Schauffele? 
Schauffele was born and raised in San Diego in California but along with his American nationality he also bears three other legal nationalities: German and French from his father’s side and Taiwanese from his mother.

Who is Schauffele’s father?
Schauffele’s father Stefan was an Olympic hopeful for Germany in the decathlon before a head-on car accident with a drunk driver ended his dreams. Stefan was given a recommendation by his doctors to play golf and quickly became obsessed with the game. He began working at an academy in San Diego after moving to the US in 1988. Stefan introduced golf to Xander, giving him his first set of real clubs at nine and taking him to the golf course. Stefan is the only swing coach Xander has ever had.

Before becoming serious about golf, Schauffele was also a keen football player. Why did he end up playing golf over football?
Schauffele quit soccer after his coach failed to move him from defensive midfield to offense at age 12. His father, Stefan, admitted that Schauffele was a very talented player, a natural two footer, and that he had it in his genes as two of Schauffele's great-grandfathers (Johann and Richard) played in the Premier League. “He would’ve been a good soccer player,” Stefan said, as quoted by Golf Digest. “He’s got the butt and the thighs.”

Despite his impressive resume, Schauffele still doesn’t consider himself a star on Tour. Does he mind that he’s not captured much of the limelight? 
“I don’t really care because I’ve never gotten a whole lot of attention,” Schauffele said, as quoted by Golf Channel. “I’ve always been the underdog and underdogs don’t really care for attention.”

What’s Schauffele’s main goal this year?
Schauffele thinks that he still needs to develop more consistency and wants to win some marquee tournaments. For him, it’s not enough to show up and win every now and then. “It’s all about contending more frequently and at the right time, in big tournaments,” Schauffele said. “And I haven’t contended enough in my career.”

What do other players think about Schauffele?
Tony Finau, Schauffele’s closest friend on Tour, has seen Schauffele’s hunger for consistency firsthand. “Someone at that age, you have success early and you can win a golf tournament and you can be content with how good you are,” Finau said. “Hitting balls next to him, you can tell his mind’s in the right place. He wants to get better and he’s hungry to compete at a high level often. … You can’t really teach that.”

Meanwhile, Jon Rahm, who recently bumped Schauffele back to seventh in the world rankings, doesn’t think that Schauffele is an underdog. “He feels like he's the underdog? Well, compared to who?” Rahm said. “I don't consider him an underdog, definitely not.”

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