How Xander Schauffele’s Family, Friends Reacted to His PGA Championship Win

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Maya Schaffel apologized once, then twice.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m blacking out.”

Her emotions spilled over after watching her husband Sander Schaffel capture his first major professional golf championship in 29 tries, sinking a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 21-under, one-stroke victory at the 106th PGA. Championship.

As she stood beyond the hitting tent at Valhalla Golf Club, her eyes were shielded by dark sunglasses. Yet it is obvious that tears have formed. The quiver in her voice was a gift.

“It means everything,” she said. “All the hard work he’s put in shows that if you put in the work, you’ll see results. He deserves it more than anything. Why do I say that? I’ve seen the dedication, the work he puts in, the hours. Even on off weeks, there’s never an off week; they train constantly. .the grind never stops.”

The victory came exactly one week after Schauffele lost a five-stroke lead at the Wells Fargo Championship. He came into the final round with or a share of the lead for the sixth time in his career, and some openly questioned what it took for him to finish. He was already known as the best player in the world to never win a major, and those voices got louder this week as they inspired the relaxed but uber-competitive Schaffel.

Even though those exact words weren’t spoken Maya could sense it.

“I’m sure that chip on his shoulder is gone, oh, my goodness,” she paused before continuing. “I’m very emotional. I think what it means to him — it’s what he has to do to play golf at this level. He’s doing what he loves.”

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She stopped again.

“Sorry, I’m blacking out now.”

Xander Schauffele celebrates with longtime caddy Austin Kaiser after winning the PGA Championship. (Michael Reeves/Getty Images)

She was standing with other members of the Shafill family and inner circle, and if there was one thing that came above all else, it was Shafill’s journey and not just his own. It belongs to everyone around him, including Maya, his rock; Stefan Schauffele, his father; Austin Kaiser, his caddy and close friend; Chris Comeau and Derek Ueda, his coaches; Ross Chouler, his agent; Nico Schaffel, his older brother and road cook; and Rona Semonian and Marnus Marais, her physical therapists and trainers.

“I’m a big believer in having the right foundation, the right people around you, a good team around you,” Schauffele said. “I believe that if you put in the hard work and allow yourself to do what you think you can do, the hard work will pay off.”

Others may have doubted him, but those around him never. Despite the disappointment of the previous week, Schaffel shook Kaiser’s hand on the 18th green at Quail Hollow and said, “We’re going to get it. Soon, baby.”

Not just in words, but their relationship had meaning.

“I said, ‘I love you, man,'” Kaiser recalled, sweat still forming on his face as he stood outside the batting tent, Schoeffel’s golf bag draped over his shoulder. “We’ve been through it all. We have been through a lot. I am proud of him.

Schauffele always had respect for the game, but this week the “yes, but” always seemed to enter. For example:

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• Had 12 top 10 finishes in 28 major appearances prior to this week. Yes, but no wins.

• Has seven top-10 finishes in 13 PGA Tour events this season. Yes, but no wins.

• Played in eight PGA Championships. Yes, but he didn’t make the top five.

Yet any questions about his fortitude were answered on the back-side holes on the back nine Sunday, when, after sending his tee shot into the right bunker on the par-5 10th, he opted to use a fairway wood. Hits 284 yards out and sand. At that point he was a stroke and could have played it safe, but no.

The ball landed in the rough and prevented him from getting any spin on his subsequent wedge shot, which rolled over the edge past the hole, resulting in a two-putt bogey to give him the lead.

With most everyone looking back at the previous weekend and wondering if his over-aggressiveness could be the start of another downfall, Schaffel refused to back down. He stepped to the tee box on No. 11 and went flag hunting, putting the ball 8 feet from the hole to set up a birdie and give him back a share of the lead.

It was a continuation of the mental toughness he displayed on Saturday as he followed up with doubles on No. 15 with consecutive birdies. If there’s one thing he hasn’t done this week, it’s been scary. Whatever shot he settles on, the week before is a reinforced lesson for him.

“Grit,” Kaiser said. “He’s a person.”

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The victory was delicious for several reasons, perhaps confirming that he made the right choice months ago when he brought in Como as his coach instead of his dad. It was Stephen who introduced him to the sport and coached him for so long; He was among the first to support him when he proposed change.

“I was actually able to call him when I was waiting to walk the 18th green (for the trophy presentation),” Schaffel said. “He was a mess. Crying on the phone. It made me so emotional. I told him to hang up because I had to walk down. I couldn’t show up like I was. … My dad, his motto — he’s been my swing coach, my mentor my whole life, And his goal, like any good dad, is to set your child up for a successful future. He’s been sending me positive texts all week, even last week.

This is not surprising. Xander’s trip is always a family affair.

(Top photo of Sander and Maya Schaffel: Andrew Reddington/Getty Images)

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