Xander Schauffele’s caddie Austin Kaiser ‘can’t wait’ to caddie in first team event at Presidents Cup
Austin Kaiser has known Xander Schauffele for eight years and caddied for him the last four, winning four times on the PGA Tour.
But he knows next week’s President’s Cup will be a team experience that even these former San Diego State golf teammates have not tasted in the big leagues yet.
“I was talking with Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth’s caddie) on a shuttle to the course in Japan (October) and he told me, ‘honestly you’re going to have the best time of your life. Your wife needs to go. The whole experience and the team aspect of it is something that you’ll never be able to recreate.’”
As if those words of wisdom don’t get him prepared for it, others have told him the team rooms are similar to a college atmosphere, but still something entirely amazing in their own right.
“Tuesday in the dining room at Hero, I was asking people: What do I expect? What’s going on? When can we go walk the course?” Kaiser said. “It’s just a lot of stuff especially because we’re getting there late because of this tournament, it’s going to be jam-packed.”
Kaiser picked the right group of caddies to ask these questions of with 11 of the 12 U.S. Presidents Cup caddies in the Bahamas this week (the exception being Austin Johnson).
This week’s Hero World Challenge’s first-round pairings also figured to be a preview of U.S. Captain Tiger Woods’ potential groupings next week at Royal Melbourne.
Xander got paired with Gary Woodland in the first round.
And that’s fine with the 28-year-old Kaiser, because he and Xander both get along well with Woodland and his looper, Brennan Little.
“Gary’s probably one of my favorite guys out here,” Kaiser said. “We joke around a lot, play a lot of jokes on each other. Gary and Brennan are great. I think it’s going to be fun for us and we like that pairing a lot. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Kaiser’s thought, specifically on pairings, is that whoever you’re paired with Wednesday is who you’ll likely play with for the alternate-shot portion of next week’s event.
And as Schauffele and Kaiser head to their first team event next week, they do so knowing how close they were to making last year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“Ever since missing out on the Ryder Cup last year where we badly wanted to make that team we’ve told ourselves, ‘alright, we need to get there, we don’t want to miss out on (a team event) again,’ so we’ve been pumped,” Kaiser said.
Schauffele and Tony Finau made some strong auditions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk’s final pick up through the 2018 BMW Championship at Aronimink last September. Furyk would announce Finau as his pick the day of BMW’s soggy Monday finish.
“I was in the car with Xander (leaving the BMW Championship for the airport) when he got the phone call from Furyk saying, ‘you just missed it’,” Kaiser said. “He hung up and he wasn’t like ‘damn it!’ He said, ‘yeah, well we just didn’t play well enough,’ and that’s just the type of guy Xander is. He knows it’s on his shoulders to execute and he just fell short by a couple shots and accepted it. It was a bummer but what are you going to do?”
How about earning an automatic Presidents Cup spot (fifth) this year thanks to two wins against elite fields at the WGC-HSBC Champions two months later and the Sentry Tournament of Champions two months after that? And he also came up one shot short of a potential playoff with Woods at the 2019 Masters, where he tied for second.
”It was a bummer that we lost, but Xander knows that high finish at Augusta, I think it’s giving him a huge confidence boost for the future Masters tournaments,” Kaiser said.
Down the stretch there were only a couple shots they’d like to have back, including the tee shot on the par-3 16th.
“That kind of cost us. There was one bad decision on 16 where we hit literally too much club,” Kaiser said. “But he’s a fighter. He shot 1 over in his first round and came back to finish tied for second, so he’s a fighter and he knows that we can win that tournament.”
For Kaiser, that Masters (their second appearance) was particularly special because it was the first ever for his best friend, former roommate, and best man in his wedding, Evan Emerick, to attend — in a San Diego State polo shirt, no less. Emerick, who played the 2011 U.S. Amateur, is now an assistant coach for Kaiser and Schauffele’s alma mater’s golf team.
Emerick watched them Tuesday to Friday that week.
With the season in full flight for San Diego State’s golf team right now, does Emerick have plans to watch his buddies in the Presidents Cup with the 19-hour time change?
“I’ll watch every match (Xander and Austin) play and record the entire Presidents Cup,” Emerick said. “I know they’ll play great.”
Former college teammate and Tour pro J.J. Spaun often exchanges snapchat messages with Kaiser when Xander’s playing a big event, so he won’t be surprised by some of that as well, even with the time difference.
Xander’s strengths for team USA
“He brings that leadership role in a quiet assassin type of way,” Kaiser said. “He just gets the job done, it’s simple as that. He’s not the flashiest guy out here, he’s not the one making headlines with what he says off the course, so he just goes about it his own way.”
As far as how Kaiser sees Xander fitting in with the U.S. team, he thinks it will be seamless.
“He’s the type of guy that will do whatever you want him to do. He’s not going to complain,” Kaiser said.
A week to remember
“Every veteran caddie I’ve talked to has been telling me I’m going to enjoy the hell out of (next week), it’s going to be amazing and they’re saying I’m going to learn stuff that you couldn’t learn anywhere else just because it’s completely different from what we experience each week,” Kaiser said.
Neither Kaiser, his wife Tiffany, or Schauffele have ever been to Australia.
“Everyone’s said Australia is one of the coolest places you’ll go,” Kaiser said. “From a golf standpoint and a tourism standpoint we’re both looking forward to it.”
For now, he’s got Tiffany with him in the Bahamas.
“Tiffany’s living the dream right now (the Bahamas this week and Australia next),” Kaiser sad. “She doesn’t know what to expect next week, but she’s super excited; probably more excited than I am, which is pretty hard to believe.”
Kaiser and Tiffany actually had their honeymoon in New Zealand last year and, unfortunately, will not be able to stay Down Under after the event because they just purchased a new house in San Diego and they want to get back to settling into it.
“We’re kind of still trying to figure the new house out, buy some furniture,” Kaiser said. “So we kind of want to just be home and experience our new house.”
Kaiser is a native of Central California’s San Luis Obispo and moved to San Diego for college.
He’s never left.
He gets grief from fellow caddies for living there, “but being from California, it’s really hard to leave. I know I’m paying premium taxes, but it’s really hard to leave.”
It’s also nice that he’s only a short, 10-minute drive from Xander, so they’re able to get together for practice pretty quickly.
Denver Broncos fanatic
“I grew up in Central California, so I was stuck between San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego (NFL teams). So when I was 6, my cousin bought me a John Elway jersey for my birthday. I don’t know why he did. But ever since, I’ve loved Elway,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser first met Elway at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last year and later saw his idol this year at the Masters.
Of course, the Broncos die-hard got a glimpse of the Super Bowl ring on the legendary quarterback’s hand. A thrill for any fan in that situation.
How much does Kaiser follow the team now?
“I’m pretty die-hard, I try to watch every game,” Kaiser said.
Finally a Lakers fan
The Lakers were the closest NBA team geographically to Kaiser growing up 216 miles from the Staples Center, but he was never a Kobe Bryant fan. So he never much cared for the dominant franchise.
His father’s a Celtics fan, so that didn’t help either.
Then LeBron showed up last year.
Kaiser has cheered on LeBron since age 11 when the phenom came straight out of high school and started his first NBA game against the Sacramento Kings in 2003. Kaiser loved the superstar’s elite game and “unselfishness on the court.”
Now Kaiser’s a full-fledged Lakers fan and he’s at least got a seemingly playoff-bound team to cheer for now that his Broncos are 4-8.