‘The stuff you dream about’

Schauf­fele joins golf’s ris­ing gen­er­a­tion

Tillsonburg News - - SPORTS - Doug Fer­gu­son ImAGES

Ka­palua, Hawaii — To say that Xan­der schauf­fele has come a long way de­pends on the view.

eigh­teen months ago, schauf­fele had played 18 times on the pga Tour and missed the cut in half of them. but after he tied for fifth in his first u.s. open at erin Hills, the 25-year-old from san diego has taken his place among golf’s emerg­ing gen­er­a­tion of stars.

schauf­fele picked up his fourth pga Tour vic­tory sun­day when he holed two shots for ea­gle, nearly chipped in for two more and fin­ished with two clutch birdies for an 11-un­der 62 to win the sen­try Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons at Ka­palua. He tied the plan­ta­tion Course record and set tour­na­ment records for the low­est clos­ing round by a win­ner and largest come­back over the last 18 holes (five shots).

The vic­tory, his se­cond of the pga Tour sea­son fol­low­ing his HsbC Cham­pi­ons ti­tle last fall, moved him to no. 6 in the world.

“This is the stuff you dream about,” schauf­fele said after his one-shot vic­tory over hard-luck gary Wood­land. “but to ac­tu­ally pull it off, it feels awe­some. i could see my­self do­ing it, but it’s hard to be­lieve just sit­ting here and talk­ing about it.”

Watch­ing the tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion was alex naka­jima, the gen­eral man­ager at Ka­palua re­sort, whose view is much longer than 18 months.

He first saw schauf­fele be­fore the boy could even hold a golf club. it was 1994, when naka­jima was an as­sis­tant pro at princeville on Kauai. The club had just hired ste­fan schauf­fele as an as­sis­tant, who never fin­ished his pga cer­ti­fi­ca­tion but knew enough about golf, pas­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion to pass it along to his son.

“it’s awe­some,” the fa­ther said as he spoke of his brief time on Kauai, and the friends who were at Ka­palua to watch the rivet­ing charge sun­day.

schauf­fele doesn’t get wrapped up in any­thing but the shot in front of him, so he wasn’t amazed at his progress in 18 months, or from the time he was eight and his fa­ther wouldn’t let him play un­less he could carry his own bag.

nor is he will­ing to in­ject him­self into the cat­e­gory of the best young play­ers in golf.

He is part of the fa­bled high school class of 2011, which in­cludes Jor­dan spi­eth, Justin Thomas and daniel berger. spi­eth and Thomas al­ready have risen to no. 1 and won ma­jors. That’s where schauf­fele wants to get.

To even be men­tioned in that group, he said, has “kind of a weird sound to it.”

in his four vic­to­ries, he over­came a three-shot deficit to win the green­brier Clas­sic, a two-shot deficit to beat Thomas at the Tour Cham­pi­onship in 2017, a three­shot deficit to win his first World golf Cham­pi­onship in shang­hai, and a five-shot deficit to beat the win­ners-only field at Ka­palua.

He is one rank­ing spot be­hind 25-year-old bryson deCham­beau, who has four pga Tour vic­to­ries. He is one spot ahead of 24-yearold Jon rahm, who has two pga Tour vic­to­ries and three on the euro­pean Tour.

“i just still feel like an un­der­dog,” schauf­fele said. “i feel like un­til you’re no. 1, you’re chas­ing. so guys like bryson and Justin ... JT has put to­gether a ton of good years. brooks (Koepka) has been crush­ing it. They keep putting that flag way out there for me to go chase, and i feel like that’s what i’ve been do­ing.”

did any­one see this com­ing when he won a play­off for one of the last spots in that 2017 u.s. open at erin Hills?

“i really wasn’t sur­prised,” said his fa­ther, the only coach schauf­fele has had. “i was hop­ing he could win in the first year and we’d see from there. Top 50 was a goal, and now he has pro­gressed a lit­tle quicker. you’ll only find out when you’re there.”

as a young man, ste­fan schauf­fele was in­vited to train for the de­cathlon with the ger­man team. He was try­ing to mas­ter the pole vault when he was hit by a drunken driver on his way to the train­ing cen­tre and lost his left eye.

He also lost the chance to com­pete in his favourite ac­tiv­i­ties — ski­ing, div­ing, weightlift­ing, any­thing that put pres­sure on his eye. When he moved to san diego, he wound up liv­ing next to a golf course and was in­trigued by the sport be­cause the ball didn’t move.

and then he was hooked. He spent two years in Hawaii and re­turned to san diego, where he shared the game with his son.

schauf­fele was the pga Tour rookie of the year in 2017, and his fa­ther was never more proud.

“dreams come true — his and mine,” the fa­ther said that year. “They’re the same dreams — to climb as high as you can in your sport, which was de­nied to me be­cause of an ac­ci­dent, so i never found out. it’s not a re­gret, it’s a fact. To be able as a fa­ther to see your son rise, it’s won­der­ful.”

The next ques­tion is how far he goes. For now, schauf­fele is still ris­ing and chas­ing flags.

Sam green­wooD/GETTy

Xan­der Schauf­fele poses with the tro­phy after win­ning the Sen­try Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons on Sun­day at Ka­palua Golf Club in La­haina, Hawaii.

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