Golf

Xander Schauffele Owes His Golf Stardom to a Stubborn Soccer Coach

Although his second choice for a career in sports is working out exceptionally well at the moment, we can pardon Xander Schauffele for wondering how far he could have gone in soccer. Given his gene pool, it’s not difficult to see how playing first-division soccer in Europe could have been a possibility.

But instead of playing in World Cups, Schauffele is destined for a couple of decades playing in PGA Championships and the U.S. Open.

Xander Schauffele is a rising PGA Tour star

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Xander Schauffele earned 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year accolades in a vote by fellow players and has scarcely looked back since. Schauffele, 26, won twice in his first season on the circuit and finished fifth in his first crack at the U.S. Open after beginning the week with a bogey-free 66.

He’s scored two more victories since and rolled up almost $14 million in prize money in his first three seasons. He’s also taken up near-permanent residence on the leaderboard at the sport’s four majors, which is why he arrived at the 2020 PGA Championship as one of the favorites to dethrone two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka.

Of course, those who were paying attention could have predicted that Schauffele would rise to the top 1% of the sport. After winning a state high school championship in California, Schauffele earned Big West Freshman of the Year honors at Long Beach State. He then transferred to San Diego State, where Schauffele set multiple school records in the golf.

Xander Schauffele possesses impeccable bloodlines

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The success that Xander Schauffele has achieved in sports shouldn’t surprise anyone who believes in the power of genetics. Two of his great-grandfathers played high-level professional soccer, with Johann Hoffmann even having suited up for Austria’s national team.

Xander’s father continued the tradition as a talented soccer and squash player, as well as a track and field athlete. An accident in Stuttgart, Germany, caused by a drunken driver blinded Stefan Schauffele in the left eye at the age of 20, all but ending his athletic pursuits.

He moved to the United States, where he met future wife Ping-Yi. After time in Germany and Hawaii, the couple settled in Southern California to raise their two sons. Stefan Schauffele passed along his interest in sports to his boys, with soccer being of particular interest.

“I always felt like I was mentally tougher than the other kids,” Xander Schauffele said. “I always wanted it more. I was sort of this grinder who would never quit.”

A soccer coach unwittingly drove him into a career in golf

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One of the great flaws with youth sports is the pigeonholing of players. The kid assigned to play left field in the first season of Little League baseball is easily forgotten when it’s time to choose shortstops or pitchers in subsequent seasons.

Xander Schauffele experienced some of that as a young soccer player. Although he possessed sound ball skills, he found himself playing sweeper game after game and year after year. Anyone following the sport knows that goalies take the blame for surrendering most goals, with sweepers a close second.

Promised more time at forward as a 12-year-old, Schauffele would soon discover he had been misled. Stuck on defense once again one day, he announced to the coach that he was quitting. He never went back to soccer. “I’m not kidding you,” Stefan Schauffele said. “The next day, this is exactly what I said: ‘Let’s get you on the PGA Tour. Let’s go.'”