Xander Schauffele is in position to win the Tour Championship for the second time in his career. This time, he’s just trying to make sure he wins the FedEx Cup, as well. When the 25-year-old triumphed in 2017, he still had to watch Justin Thomas claim the playoff title.
This time around, he trails Brooks Koepka by a stroke heading into Sunday’s final round at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. His caddie Austin Kaiser will be at his side, as he has been throughout almost his entire professional career.
This partnership has led three PGA Tour wins outside of the Tour Championship, including the WGC-HSBC Champions and Sentry Tournament of Champions in 2019. Here’s what you need to know about Kaiser and his relationship with Schauffele.
1. Kaiser Used to Be ‘Too Soft’ on Schauffele, His Former College Teammate
Kaiser and Schauffle played golf together for San Diego State. Kaiser and Schauffele both golfed for Aztecs from 2012-15, but the latter started his career at Long Beach State before transferring prior to his sophomore season.
Kaiser was a decent player for the Aztecs. During his junior season he started 12 of 13 tournaments and ranked fourth on the team with a stroke average just under 74. He also posted four top-20 finishes.
At first, Kaiser was too soft on his college companion, often sugarcoating mediocre shots. But again, that’s not the Schauffele way.
So Kaiser flipped his mindset. Let his boss know if something’s wrong or he’s doing something foolish. When the pair was in college, Schauffele wouldn’t let his friend wallow in self-pity.
If Kaiser was making excuses about his golf, Schauffele would let him have it.
Like father, like son.
Kaiser helped Schauffele earn 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors. He explained the change in approach to PGATour.com.
“It was probably a combination of everything,” Kaiser said. “Nothing switched. Maybe my brain flip-flopped. Coaching, technique, everything was the same the entire season. I definitely got more mature. A lot of it was my caddie though. He’s also a rookie, my teammate in college. It took us the first half of the season to figure out how we tick. Now we seem to be sailing pretty smooth.”
2. Kaiser Initially Wanted to Be a Cop
According to our own Tom Cleary, Kaiser’s first career path after San Diego State was in law enforcement.
“I finished schooling and was actually going to be a cop,” Kaiser told the Atascadero News in 2018. “I was signed up and ready for the police academy and I was about two months from going through all my schooling for it when Xander calls me and goes, ‘Hey I need a caddie and I think you would be great. We’re buds and you know my game more than almost anybody.’ So I told him I would give it a try…”
He instead helped Schauffele earn his PGA Tour card after a successful stint in “Q School” on the Web.com Tour.
“So we went to Web, go through that and we were actually the first people out to get their PGA card,” Kaiser said. “It was kind of a bummer, but they had a playoff season where you can also get your card and that’s how we got our card.”
That was back in 2015. Schauffele made his first PGA cut in Oct. 2016 at the Safeway Open. By July 2017, he won his first PGA title at the Greenbrier.
3. Kaiser Has Earned Over $1 Million as Schauffele’s Caddie
According to Golf Week, caddies make anywhere between $1,000 to $2,000 a week on the PGA Tour. In addition, they make between five to 10 percent of the player’s winnings. As our own Jeff Smith writes, this splits up into “10 percent if a player wins an event, seven percent for a top-10 finish and five percent if the finish is below that.”
As Smith also points out, the weekly salary usually goes towards travel costs, which aren’t covered by the PGA. Assuming Schauffele pays his buddy the higher end of the estimate at $2,000 a month, and multiply that by the 78 tournaments he’s played (including this weekend), that equals $156,000 in salary.
In his career, Schauffele has racked up $14,421,897 in career earnings. That means an estimate of between $721,095 (five percent) to $1.442 million (10 percent) for Kaiser. Since Schauffele has earned 16 top-10 finishes in his career, as well as four wins, Kaiser’s earnings are probably on the higher end of those projections.
Add in the weekly salary total, and Kaiser has earned well over $1 million with Schauffele.
4. Schauffele & His Girlfriend Maya Lowe Attended Kaiser’s Wedding in July 2018
Kaiser married a woman named Tiffa John Abdul in July 2018 at a ceremony at Greengate Ranch & Vineyard in San Luis Obispo.
Schauffele attended with his girlfriend Maya Lowe. She acted as his caddie at the 2018 Par-3 Contest prior the the Masters. He posted a picture of them on the Augusta National course together.
“Glad to have this one on the bag for the Par 3 contest,” Schauffele captioned the pic. Lowe commented a short time later, making a joke about not getting paid to caddie.
“Where’s my cut?” she joked, as evidenced by her follow-up comment; the kissy-face emoji.
5. Kaiser Won the Par-3 Caddie Competition at the 2018 Players Championship
Kaiser’s golf skills are still with him after college. At the 2018 Players Championship in Jacksonville, he won the Caddie Competition on the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.
According to Golf Channel, he just barely edged out the other caddies.
Kaiser hit his tee shot at the par-3 17th hole on the Stadium Course, which was playing 137 yards, to 7 feet, 2 inches to edge Jordan Elsen, C.T. Pan’s caddie, and Joe Cruz, who loops for Adam Hadwin and finished third.
Kaiser was the only caddie to hit his tee shot inside 10 feet, although he fell short of the winning shot last year that was hit by Ian Finnis (6 feet, 11 inches).
The Caddie Competition benefits the Bruce Edwards Foundation, which support ALS research.