How Xander Schauffele’s family and friends reacted after he won the PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maya Schauffele apologized once, then twice.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I lost consciousness.”

Her emotions were raw after watching her husband, Xander Scheufele, win his first major professional golf championship in 29 attempts, sinking a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to seal a one-stroke victory at 21-under par in the 106th PGA Championship.

As she stood behind the scoring tent at Valhalla Golf Club, her eyes were hidden by dark sunglasses. However, it was clear that tears were forming. The tremor in her voice was the gift.

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

The win came exactly one week after Scheufele blew a one-shot lead and lost by five at the Wells Fargo Championship. It was the sixth time in his career that he had failed after entering the final round with all or part of the lead, and some were openly questioning whether he had what it took to finish the race. He was already known as the best player in the world and had never won a major tournament, and the louder those votes got this week, the more they galvanized the laid-back but very competitive Schauffele.

Maya could sense it, even if those exact words were never spoken.

“I’m sure that chip on his shoulder is gone, jeez,” she said, pausing for a moment before continuing. “I’m really, really emotional. I think what this means for him is that this is exactly what he set out to do, play golf at this level. He’s doing what he loves.”

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I stopped again.

“I’m sorry, I’m unconscious now.”

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

She was standing with other members of the Schafley family and inner circle, and if one thing stood out more than anything else, it was that Schafley’s journey was not his alone. She also belongs to everyone around him, including Maya, his rock; Stefan Scheufele, his father; Austin Kaiser, his protégé and close friend; Chris Cuomo and Derek Ueda are his coaches. Ross Schuler, his agent; Nico Chauvel, his older brother and road cook; Rona Simonyan and Marnus Marais, physical therapists and coaches.

“I’m a big believer in having the right foundation, the right people around you and a good team around you,” Schauffele said. “I think if you put in the hard work and allow yourself to do what you think you can do, you will get some fruits of the labor.”

Others might have doubted him, but never those around him. Even amid the disappointment of the previous week, when Rory McIlroy edged Schauffele on the back nine despite Schauffele leading after each of the first three rounds, Schauffele shook Kaiser’s hand on the 18th green at Quail Hollow and said: ‘We’ll have one soon, mate. boy.”

There was substance not only to the words but also to the relationship between them.

“I said, ‘I love you, man,’” Kaiser recalled, sweat still forming on his face as he stood outside the scoring tent, Schauvel’s golf bag slung over his shoulder. “We’ve been through it all. We’ve been through a lot of things. I’m proud of him.”

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There has always been respect for Schauffele’s performance, but there always seems to be a “yes, but” entering this week. For example:

• He had 12 top-10 finishes in 28 major league games before this week. Yes, but no wins.

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

• He has participated in eight PGA Championships. Yes, but he never finished in the top five.

However, any questions about his mental toughness were answered on back-to-back holes on the back nine on Sunday, when when he sent his putt into the right bunker on the par-5 10th, he elected to use the fairway wood despite it being 284 yards out and hitting from sand. He was awake in one fell swoop at the time and could have played it safe, but no.

The ball landed in the rough and prevented him from turning on his ensuing wedge shot, which rolled across the hole and onto the edge, resulting in a double bogey that cost him the lead.

With everyone looking back to the previous weekend and wondering if his excessive aggression might be the start of another downfall, Scheufele refused to back down. He stepped into the tee box on No. 11 and went for the flag, 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 showed on Saturday, when he followed up a double on No. 15 with back-to-back birdies. If there’s one thing he won’t do this week, it’s play scared. He stuck to whatever shot he settled on, a lesson that had been reinforced for him the previous week.

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“Gravel,” Kaiser said. “This is who he is as a person.”

The win was sweet for multiple reasons, perhaps most of them because it confirmed that he made the right decision several months ago when he brought in Cuomo to replace his father as his coach. Stefan is the one who introduced him to the game, and the one who coached him for a long time; He was also the first to support him when he suggested the switch.

“I was actually able to call him when I was standing there waiting to walk to the 18th green (for the trophy presentation),” Schauffele said. It was a mess. He was crying on the phone. It made me very emotional. I told him I had to hang up because I had to walk. I couldn’t look the same. … My father, his goal – he’s been my coach and mentor my whole life, and his goal was really, just like any good parent would want, to set your child up for a successful future. He really meant it. He asked, What ability can I help you with this week? He has been sending me positive messages all week, all week, and even last week as well.

No surprise there. Xander’s journey is and always will be a family affair.

(Top photo by Xander and Maya Scheufele: Andrew Reddington/Getty Images)

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