Family Ties and Triumph: Xander Schauffele's Road to PGA Championship Glory

The PGA Championship winner talks about his winning mentality and the importance of his close circle.

Golf
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It’s only been a few days since Xander Schauffele lifted his first-ever major championship trophy at the PGA Championship, and the San Diego native is doing the famous post-victory media lap. Up at 10:10AM on Tuesday: Hypebeast. We click on a Microsoft Teams invite link and are joined by the pro golfer’s agent, Gao, who explains Xander is running a bit late. To pass the time, we make small talk with Gao, who tells us he’s at the head of a small family operation and only represents Xander.

Though being represented by a small agency isn’t standard procedure for many pro golfers, it’s fitting for the 30-year-old, first-time major winner. Family matters to Xander Schauffele, and that’s no dig at Kendrick Lamar. The Olympic gold medalist was introduced to golf by his father Stefan at age 9, and to this day he’s never taken a golf lesson from anyone else. At the beginning of this season he switched clothing sponsors from adidas to Japanese outdoors brand Descente, referencing advice from his uncle and “family ties” to Japan. Although born and raised in San Diego, Schauffele spent a lot of time in Japan growing up and still has many relatives who live around Tokyo. Up until last week the crowning achievement of his career was the gold medal in men’s golf at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But in professional golf — whether rightly or wrongly — your narrative always depends on success in majors. That’s no longer a sticking point for Schauffele, who can now pass the proverbial torch of “best player without a major” to someone else.

It’s a few days since you won the PGA Championship. What’s the overriding feeling? Is it validation of your talent, appreciation for the journey?

I’d say it’s a little bit of both. It’s extremely validating, it feels amazing. You definitely think about the journey along the way. I think about my team, everyone that’s helped me along the way and everyone that’s been supporting me and rooting me on. So obviously, waking up happy and ready to get back to work in a weird way.

Take us back to the opening round on Thursday morning where you got out to the lead with a 62. What does it feel like when you’re playing so well?

Typically whenever I’m playing very well I forget about how low I’m shooting. I really lock into what I’m doing out there, trying to make the right decisions, things of that nature versus counting each birdie that I’m making and thinking of the birdies I can make in the future holes. Everything slows down when you’re playing really good golf and it’s obviously loads of fun. Paying off a lot of good shots with making 15 to 18 foot putts is not something that happens all the time, and so for it to happen all in one round is really cool.

There’s been a fair amount of discussion post-tournament about the host course with people saying that it was too easy, that it shouldn’t host another major championship. From your perspective, is there anything that should differentiate a major championship venue?

Yeah, typically major championships are trying to test every part of your game. I think the one thing is no matter how great of a venue you have or how great of a property you’re on, weather is such a tricky thing. Not every course has SubAir [a technology that removes moisture from the ground] and even the courses that do have it only have a few machines they can run. So when you have fog delays and rain delays and crazy weather coming in and out, and you have all these people on property at a certain time, I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to get a golf course ready.

So us golfers know and we always appreciate the crew and the staff that helps us play on really nice properties. But picking a venue is one thing and having the weather cooperate four times a year at the majors is another. I think if you look at the past champs at Valhalla though, those were some really good winners and it’s produced a ton of drama. I imagine from a fan’s perspective as much drama and as many people up top hashing it out as possible is the best thing for TV. And for us, we just want to compete and give ourselves a really good chance.

A big talking point from earlier in the week was Scottie Scheffler’s run in with local police. Have you put yourself in his shoes and wondered what would have happened if it were you instead?

I mean it really seems like a little bit more information is coming out on the matter. It seems like everyone’s cooperating based on what I’ve read. The police officer and Scottie, everyone wants to figure it out from what I’ve read. But I drove to the course the morning before and it wasn’t raining and it was like 5:30 in the morning and pitch black, and yes it was confusing getting in and out of the property. Once everyone was there at a certain time it was less confusing. But when there’s a lot of cars around and people walking around and there’s a bunch of orange cones lined up, it is a bit confusing.

Now imagine you throw in variables like rain, people, lights and we’re so used to having our courtesy cars waved through. So yeah the first thing I thought was that could have happened to any of us and he just happened to have an early tee time. And then of course, the fatality. I think that’s the biggest thing that happened on property that week was someone passed in a terrible accident and that triggered all these events.

Putting the tournament aside, can you tell us about your new clothing sponsor Descente? What inspired the change and what’s their perspective on golf is as a ski brand?

Yeah, so Descente is a Japanese clothing company, actually best known as a skiing brand. They’ve been in the golf space before, sponsoring the likes of Danny Willett and a few Asian players like Hideki Matsuyama as well. So it was something that my uncle brought to my attention, he was able to meet with them in Asia when he was there.

And I have family ties to Japan, I love Japan. For starters, my grandparents live there. I’ve been going there since I was like nine or 10 years old, so just a deep appreciation for Japan. So pairing up with a Japanese company felt really natural actually, just understanding their values and how they go about their business in general.

And then all Japanese companies, I feel, the culture is strong. If you look at Descente as a clothing company, they want to be very precise, they want to be very elegant, they basically want to make perfect clothes. And so I get to be the ambassador of a company that wants to be elite and wants to make everything as perfect as possible, which is something I’m super fortunate to be a part of.

You’re also involved with TGL, the new made-for-TV competition launching next year. For a while there was a bit of a cloud of mystery around it, so what has been your elevator pitch to friends and family?

I mean, first off Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy are heading the league, and I think anything that Tiger is a part of is going to be special. It’s a high tech, first-of-its-kind arena, I would say. There’s a lot of tech involved in it, you know golf has gone more that direction. Obviously we play outside, it’s almost like the least techy thing because you’re literally playing outside on a golf course out in the open. So to bring that into like a small enclosed arena with some of the best players in the world competing in this league, it’s gonna be the first of its kind and it felt like it was something that I couldn’t miss out on. So it’s really unique and I’m pretty excited to see how it all pans out.

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