Golfer Xander Schauffele Says His Gold Medal 'Means More' to His Dad, Who Missed Out on Olympics
Schauffele's father Stefan was set to compete in the heptathlon until a drunk driver ended his Olympic dreams
Standing on top of the Olympic podium with a gold medal around his neck was a "special" moment for golfer Xander Schauffele. But the American says it likely bigger for his dad, Stefan Schauffele.
Forty years before Xander made the U.S. Olympic team, Stefan had hoped to represent Germany in the heptathlon, but lost vision in one of his eyes after a car accident.
"It was his dream to compete in the Olympics," Xander, 27, tells PEOPLE. "He was on his way to training camp in Germany and he got hit by a drunk driver, and his dream was sort of swiped from him."
When Xander learned that he could only bring one person with him to the Tokyo Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he says "it was always going to be my dad."
"He's been my mentor and my swing coach my entire life," Xander explains. "I've always been aware of the situation and aware of how special the Olympics are to him."
During the final round on Sunday, the PGA Tour golfer had "a very stressful day" on the course, coming in clutch in the last few holes to secure his first place finish.
"Usually it's more stress in the morning and kind chill throughout the day and then you hopefully have a decent lead to finish the round, but I kind of had it in the reverse — I had a very sort of easy start and that really stressful back end of the round and made it pretty hard on myself," he says. "So despite the stress, I think it made the reward that much sweeter."
And Xander was thrilled to have Stefan there for the win.
"It was nice coming off the green and giving him a big hug. This means a lot to me, but honestly I think it means more to him for me to deliver this pretty early in my career," Xander says. "It's something special."
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Xander also appreciated the opportunity to compete for Team USA, rather than just himself.
"You're not playing for money, you're not playing for anything really, you're just trying to represent your country to the best of your abilities, and it brings you back to why I play golf, which is to be really competitive and win and put anything else aside," he says. "So it was really refreshing, and definitely a lot more stressful than I anticipated."
With his gold medal in hand, Xander is back in the U.S. and planning a small celebration with his family and friends.
"We'll do a little get together and have a little toast," he says.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.
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