He is a PGA Tour winner, but it could have been a lot different had American rookie Xander Schauffele followed a different path.
Born into a family of athletes, Schauffele was surrounded by footballers and had a ball at his feet growing up.
His father, Stefan – a German-French immigrant – was a talented player, whose grandfathers also played football in Europe.
Stefan brought his son’s talents to the United States, where a young Xander’s passion for football developed.
That was until Schauffele was absorbed by a little white ball and the nature of golf.
“It was simply the team aspect to an individual sport,” the 23-year-old told Omnisport. “I loved playing soccer as a kid.
“We lost a tournament and I played a perfect game to my standard. I didn’t understand why we lost.
“I couldn’t accept the fact that it was someone else’s fault. So I just turned to golf because you have to earn everything you do.”
Although, one football coach and his desire for Schauffele to play in defence may have had something to do with it.
“One of my old Brazilian coaches was straight up with me and told me I wasn’t good enough in attack and my ball-handling wasn’t good enough,” he said. “He was right but I didn’t want him to be right.”
Does Schauffele miss playing football? “Yes and no. It is a lot more strenuous than golf. Golf is a little more strenuous on the mind and football on the body.
“During The Open, we had a house up there and we bought a football for the backyard. We kicked it around for a couple of hours. I’m not sure if it was a good idea because my leg was a little sore the next day but it was well worth it.”
— Xander Schauffele (@XSchauffele) July 10, 2017
Football’s loss is golf’s gain and Schauffele looks right at home on the greens.
It has been an impressive rookie season for Schauffele, who announced himself by finished tied for fifth at the U.S. Open – his first appearance at a major.
At the time, Schauffele had fewer than 100 Twitter followers. Now, he is a PGA Tour champion after his clutch win at the Greenbrier Classic, while he boasts a social media following of almost 3,000.
“I exceeded all the goals we had in place but my overall expectations weren’t really high,” Schauffele said.
Schauffele attributes “a lot” of his success to golf’s high school class of 2011, which includes three-time major champion Jordan Spieth, U.S. Open and Dell Technologies Championship victor Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger.
“They set the bar really high, Spieth and Thomas in particular,” he continued. “They obviously feed off each other. I’m sure if you ask Thomas about his career, he’d definitely say Spieth is the reason he’s pushing himself even harder, just because they grew up as friends.
“From a playing standpoint, they are pushing me to work harder everyday.”
So what is the goal for the remainder of the year? A berth at the season-ending Tour Championship.
“A win would be good obviously,” he said. “But my expectations aren’t through the roof. I’m a rookie and I’ve never been to certain courses, which is a disadvantage.
“However, it doesn’t mean I can’t play well and contend. Making the Tour Championship is a huge goal in terms of setting up the year and the schedule.”
To get there, Schauffele – ranked 32nd after finishing T53 and T17 in the two previous play-off events – must place inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings after the BMW Championship, which gets underway on September 14.
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