Home » PGA Championship 2024: On an island thousands of kilometres away, Stefan Schauffele bawled after his son’s breakthrough win – Australian Golf Digest

PGA Championship 2024: On an island thousands of kilometres away, Stefan Schauffele bawled after his son’s breakthrough win – Australian Golf Digest

The nine hectares of land is outside of Poipu Beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The Schauffele family owns it now, and on it sits a large cargo shipping container that doubles as a “house”, an excavator with a mulcher and a several chainsaws. There is no running water or air conditioning, and the only power is generated by solar panels. Bathroom? “You take a spade and you walk into the jungle – that’s your toilet,” Stefan Schauffele says.

Rather fitting for a man whose centuries-old, German-French name literally means “man with a small shovel”.

This rustic camp is where professional golfer Xander Schauffele’s parents, Stefan and Ping Yi, have spent weeks at a time away from their tract home in San Diego so they can eventually create an escape from the world for future generations of their family. Stefan is currently on a three-month stint there. Still, there are sacrifices, like not being able to have a television around when your son is contending in the final round of major championship.

Photo: Keyur Khamar

That was the case on today for the elder Schauffele, who rose with the cries of Kauai’s ever-present roosters to work his land. It rained overnight and he wanted to check on the plants he’d just put in. Some 7,000 kilometres away and six hours ahead in time, Xander Schauffele began his round in the 106th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club with the equal lead and his best chance to win what had been an elusive first major.

Over a couple of hours, Stefan checked his phone on his son’s progress, but he didn’t plan to watch any of the round until the back nine. He supposed he’d do so at a local sports bar, but then some friends visiting from home in San Diego called and invited him to their condo. He arrived in time to very calmly – he swears – watch the most important holes of the golf life he’d helped create.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I was flatline,” Stefan Schauffele told Golf Digest on the phone. “Look, I’m observing; that’s what I do.”

Until the final putt fell. Xander Schauffele scared the heck out of anybody cheering for him when his six-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole caught the lip of the cup and looked like it would spin out. Only it dropped in by a fraction to give the 30-year-old Californian the major championship so many figured would eventually come, even if doubts had begun to creep in for everyone but Schauffele and his team. Schauffele led wire-to-wire, opening with a 62 and closing with a 65 to set a majors scoring record at 21-under 263.

After Schauffele signed his scorecard and was making his way back to the 18th green for the trophy presentation, he called his dad, who was sobbing almost uncontrollably. Flatline? Not a chance. “When the ogre is happy, he cries,” Stefan admitted, referring to himself by his long-held nickname. “Once he made that putt, I started melting like a piece of butter in a skillet.”

Apparently, the show of emotion was nothing new, though Stefan Schauffele has likely felt few moments more deeply. “My dad, he’s referred to as the ogre, but he’s a big teddy bear,” Xander said in his champion’s press conference. “Steve Stricker wins a tournament and he’s crying. My dad is sitting right there on the couch crying with him. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Stefan and Xander have seemingly been joined at the hip since the father introduced his son to golf at age 9. Dad was the only true swing instructor Xander had until he began working more recently with well-known coach Chris Como. They fought like madmen sometimes – about everything. “We destroyed a whole bathroom once,” Stefan recalled in an interview a few years ago.

But Xander knew there was one person who would always love him and have his back, and even from across the continent and deep into the Pacific, his dad was speaking to him, one way or another. The father had asked the son if he needed him this week at Valhalla. He told Stefan to keep working his land.

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Photo: Patrick Smith

“He crept into my mind [Saturday] during an interview,” Xander said. “I just said, ‘I’m going to have to sneak back to that, commit, execute, accept.’ That’s something that he’s ingrained in me since I was about nine years old… He’s been my swing coach and my mentor my entire life, and just like any good dad, you want to just set up your kid for a successful future. He really meant that. He was, like, ‘What capacity am I going to help you this week?’ He sent me positive texts through the week.”

During Xander’s pro career, his father listened to the commentators and critics who recognised his son’s talents – now eight PGA Tour wins is a very strong résumé – but wondered if he could overcome the scarring of so many early close calls in majors, including four top-three finishes. “See through your course,” was Stefan’s counter to his son.

“People are saying now he finally didn’t fail. But he never saw it as failure,” Stefan said. “He is a guy who is really consistent at a certain game plan. He can tone it up and tone it down. That’s the arsenal he has… If that trend gets you on top, you’re going to be hard to displace from that position. Take the world ranking. He has never once regressed.

With the win, Schaufele will reach his highest-ever spot in the rankings at No.2 behind Scottie Scheffler. He also guaranteed himself the opportunity to defend the Olympic gold medal he captured four years ago for the United States in his mother’s native Japan.

Stefan Schauffele has never been shy about offering his opinions, and even as he looked out at tourists surfing in the ocean from a condo in Kauai, he wasn’t in an “Aloha” frame of mind about Xander’s future prospects.

“Now he’s got this first major,” Stefan said. “This is the first one of the four. I’ve got a good feeling he’ll get the second one of the four this year. With as consistent as he is now, everybody is on notice.”

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