Piehler knew Scheffler’s future was bright when two college coaches were seen in the stands at one of Highland Park’s junior varsity games on a cold, winter weekday night. He went up in the stands to ask why two men from the University of Texas and Texas A&M were scouting the JV squad. That’s when he found out they were golf coaches, there to show Scheffler they were serious about getting him to sign with their program. That summer, Scheffler would win the US Junior and advance to the quarterfinals of the US Amateur. As a high school senior, he finished T22 in his PGA TOUR debut at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
At that point, Scheffler’s legend had been growing around the Royal Oaks Country Club for a decade. The Schefflers became members after moving to Texas from New Jersey when Scottie was 6 years old. He quickly became a fixture at the back of the range, where TOUR players congregated to work with the club’s legendary instructor, Randy Smith.
Scheffler often could be found sitting on a range bucket, watching Smith teach the likes of Justin Leonard, Gary Woodland, Ryan Palmer, Harrison Frazar and Colt Knost. Smith recognized quickly that Scheffler was different than the other kids his age.
“Everything he did was tied to a target,” Smith said. “That was something you just didn’t see in young, young kids. That has never changed. ”
Knost said Scheffler was “born to do this.” His was a natural gift that was nurtured by a unique environment. The pros at Royal Oaks welcomed the youngster in their midst who would quietly observe them as they worked.
“He would hardly say anything unless he thought they weren’t performing like he thought they should,” said Smith, recalling the time one of his TOUR players was hitting wedges at a pole that sits 87 yards from the practice tee. After several unsuccessful attempts to hit it, a young Scheffler innocently asked, “Why don’t you hit it?”
“That’s the kind of attitude he had. If that’s what you’re trying to do, go ahead and hit it, ”Smith said. When Scheffler left to hit balls a few feet away, he hit the pole with his third shot. The metal pole rung out with the impact, an audible announcement of the kid’s talent.
“He was always a sponge,” said Knost, who won both the US Amateur and US Amateur Public Links in 2007 before playing nearly 200 events on the PGA TOUR. Knost remembers working on his bunker shots while Scheffler, who was around 10 years old at the time, sat on the lip of the sand trap. Knost was shagging his balls when a ball landed on the green, took two hops and stopped near the hole.
“How the hell did you do that?” Knost asked.
“I was just watching,” Scheffler said. Knost laughs at the story of Frazar, who won once on TOUR, spending hours on the putting green, trying to complete a drill that Smith had invented. Scheffler completed it on his first try after arriving at the course from school. Scheffler would hold his own in putting and chipping contests, even when he was 10, and he’d play from the back tees at Royal Oaks even when he was too small to reach the par-4s in two. It taught him how to play strategically, and it developed the short game that served him so well at Augusta National. Scheffler wore pants and polos to emulate the pros, as well.
“I think that’s where he learned to play golf,” Knost said. “In today’s world, all these young up-and-comers, everything is about being perfect, the perfect golf swing, on Trackman, grinding all the time. He’s always known how to play golf. It’s not always the prettiest looking thing but he just gets it done. ”