Professional golfer and San Diego native Xander Schauffele is no stranger to trophies; he's won a bunch of them throughout his pro and amateur career. The thing is... he's just not much of a "trophy guy."
Schauffele doesn't have a trophy room at his house. He doesn't display them on his mantle. He's not even sure where many of his trophies are. But that's not the case with his Olympic gold medal, it's different.
"This one is really special," said a beaming Schauffele while holding up his medal during an interview with NBC 7 from his San Diego home.
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"I think the recognition that's has come with, I'll be walking in the street and non-golfers sort of realize, since it's a gold medal," Schauffele said. "I am getting more attention because of it. I think it's still surreal. People are constantly reminding me of it, so it's going to be a hard one to forget."
A hard trophy or medal to forget, but one that almost never materialized. You see, Schauffele, like many PGA pros, was skpetical about golf as an Olympic sport and concerned about COVID-19 travel issues to and from the 2020 Tokyo Games, which were postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic.
He admits that as late as a few days before the Olympics, he had second thoughts about participating. Ultimately, he decided to make his way to Japan.
"I was kind of on the fence about going. It was wild, my wife reminded me as soon as I won and the following day, that I almost didn't go," Schauffele said. "You're right I almost didn't, but man, am I glad I did."
Even though Olympic golf is not The Masters, The U.S. Open, The British Open or the PGA Championship, the general feeling is Schauffele's Olympic win can springboard him to winning his first major championship. Especially, since it was won with a putt on the 18th and final hole after a wayward tee shot.
"I think it was big. It was a big stage and a big moment for me," Schauffele said. "As a competitor, I never got over the hump of sort of having the lead and winning. I've failed and I've watched people do it in front of me that are younger than me or the same age, so it was frustrating at times. So for me to win in that fashion, sort of hold on and sort of make this unconventional par, it was really big, a big deal for me and my team. It was something that needed to happen, and of course, to do it on the stage of the Olympics with a gold medal is even better."
Zooming out and looking big picture, there’s some real significance to Schauffele's win. Xander's dad is from Europe, his mom is from Asia, Xander is multi-ethnic. If the Olympics can truly bring people together, then Schauffele's victory was a win for the world.
"You know, the reason my parents sort of fled their hometowns to come to the United States was the land of the free," Schauffele said. "The U.S. is such a melting pot, everyone is here to better themselves or get a step ahead or create a better future for themselves. So, to me I think the Olympics do signify a big coming together.
"Everyone is putting things aside for the bigger picture, it really does unite people and you can put your differences aside for a moment.