CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND — The most important day in Austin Kaiser’s life will, in all likelihood, come Saturday when he marries his high school sweetheart, Tiffany John, but the Atascadero alum’s second favorite day so far very well could have come this past weekend as he caddied for teammate and friend Xander Schauffele and finished tied for second at The Open.
Kaiser is an Atascadero native that graduated as a Greyhound in 2010 and dominated golf on the Central Coast while he was here. Kaiser played on Atascadero’s varsity golf team all four years that he was in high school and earned all-league honors in his sophomore, junior and senior years and was named league MVP in his final season.
After a year at Cuesta and a year at Allan Hancock community colleges, he accepted a scholarship to play golf at San Diego State University, which is where he met Schauffele who played in the No.1 spot at SDSU while Kaiser held down the fourth or fifth spot.
“I finished schooling and was actually going to be a cop,” Kaiser said. “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…”
Before a golfer can make it onto the PGA Tour they must first earn their PGA Tour card and go through what is called “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."
Kaiser and Schauffele should look familiar to avid sports fans and golf watchers. Schauffele was named Rookie of the Year for the PGA last year, earning two wins in the process, the first one being Greenbrier and second being the Tour Championship. Kaiser has had less screen time than his partner, the current No. 18 golfer in the world, but he did have his 10 seconds of fame earlier this year at The Players Championship caddie competition at Sawgrass.
“Each caddie gets to hit a shot, so I think that 130 or 140 guys hit a shot and I didn’t think I was going to win, honestly,” Kaiser said. Except he did win. Kaiser hit his tee shot at the par-3 17th, which was playing 137 yards, to just inside 8 feet at 7 feet, 2 inches away (the only caddie to put the pall within 10 feet), according to Rex Hoggard of the Golf Channel. Not more than a few seconds after the ball hit the green, the former Hound turned Aztec began riding his club like a bull rider in the rodeo, channeling his inner Happy Gilmore and forcing the hand of major sports entities like ESPN and FOX to show the vibrant personality of a man usually cast into the shadows.
The role of the caddie in the PGA Tour has changed over the years and more rapidly as of recently.
“The caddie has evolved completely,” Kaiser said. “It used to
Rather than just handing him a club, Kaiser will tell Schauffele before each shot what will happen if he hits a bad shot, if he goes long, or misses to the right or to the left.
“It’s just giving him scenarios essentially and kind of giving him information that he might not be aware of,” he said.
Being a caddie for one of the top 20 golfers in the world provides many cool and unique opportunities like walking some of the most prestigious and expensive golf courses in the world that most people will only see on their television screens and when they play Tiger Woods Golf on PlayStation 4. Growing up as a golfer, and a really good one at that, Kaiser looked up to many of the pro’s he strides side by side with on weekends now.
“We have met Tiger, we haven’t talked too much to him. Just kind of walk past him in the locker room and saying, ‘What’s up?’ Kaiser said. “But I grew up really liking Jason Day and we have played with him twice already by now and I think that is the most starstruck I have been because I grew up idolizing him almost more than Tiger.”
Schauffele has struggled a bit in his sophomore season, something that is common among golfers, but hopefully his second-place finish at The Open will get him and Kaiser headed in the right direction as they aim to win a Major and cement their legacy among the all-time golf greats.