Vanderbilt’s ‘Stallion,’ Matthias Schwab, is as cool as they come

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Vanderbilt’s ‘Stallion,’ Matthias Schwab, is as cool as they come

PGA Tour

Vanderbilt’s ‘Stallion,’ Matthias Schwab, is as cool as they come

ORLANDO, Fla. – For 17 holes, things were going nicely for Matthias Schwab in his first ever PGA Tour round, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Sure, a double bogey at Bay Hill’s par-4 third hole was disappointing, but the Vanderbilt senior birdied four times in the next 13 holes to move to 1 under as he arrived on the 18th tee box.

Then disaster struck. The amateur from Rohrmoos, Austria, missed the fairway right, and after laying up into the fairway, he chunked his wedge shot, his ball ending up in the rocks just shy of the green. By the time his ball found the cup at the par-4 closing hole, it was for triple bogey – and a 2-over 74.

Some amateurs would’ve hung their head, maybe even shouted or given their golf bag a nice whack with their putter. But not Schwab. He’s as cool, calm and collected as they come in amateur golf.

“He’s just comfortable in his own skin,” said Schwab’s college coach, Scott Limbaugh, who was out following his star player Thursday. “It doesn’t mean he’s not mad. It doesn’t mean that he’s happy that he just wedged it in the water. It just means that he doesn’t think that doing any of that stuff helps him be better on the next shot.”

Said Schwab: “I was pretty upset. It was a bad shot, but it happens. … I feel like I can’t do that (get visibly or vocally upset) in front of the tournament people.”

But Schwab, 22, isn’t just that way in front of Tour crowds. He’s that way in front of just a handful of people at a college tournament. He’s that way around his teammates in practice. He’s that way all the time.

“Matthias just sticks to his plan and doesn’t let emotions and things change that,” said Limbaugh of Schwab, who is ranked fourth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and is in line to be an All-American for a third straight season.

How did Schwab learn to handle those emotions so well? “It’s just the way I am,” he said.

But looking closer, Schwab’s upbringing has a lot to do with his mental toughness. His dad, Andreas Schwab, was an Olympic bobsledder. He represented Austria in the 1976 Winter Olympics and helped his country to sixth in the four-man bobsleigh competition that year in Innsbruck, Austria.

Andreas also loved golf and taught his three boys to play despite the family living in a ski town where the local golf course was closed from November through April because of snow. Matthias, the middle boy, liked skiing, tennis and soccer as a kid, but once he became a teenager, golf was his biggest passion.

Matthias Schwab, pictured during his first Austrian Open start, in 2010 in Atzenbrugg, Austria. (Getty Images)

Limbaugh remembers when he first got the head-coaching job at Vanderbilt in June 2012. The next month he flew to Austria to watch Schwab compete in the Lyoness Open, Austria’s annual European Tour event. During an in-home visit one night, Schwab told Limbaugh that he wanted to come to Nashville and play for him.

“He and I just really clicked right away,” Limbaugh said.

More than four years later and Schwab’s college career is almost over. He plans to turn pro right after the NCAA Championship and make his first start in Austria at the June 8-11 Lyoness Open. It will be his fifth career start (Schwab has made the cut three of four times with a best finish of T-14, in 2013) at the event in his home country, which hasn’t seen a lot of success in pro golf. (Bernd Wiesberger is ranked 38th in the world, 730 spots higher than the next Austrian, Manuel Trappel.)

“Bernd is doing great; he’s our No. 1 golfer,” Schwab said. “But I’m just going to try to do my own thing.”

It’s worked well so far for “The Stallion,” a nickname given to Schwab by his coaches and teammates, “because he’s our racehorse,” Limbaugh said. Schwab is ultra-reliable. He never gets too up or too down, yet he’s super competitive. He’s mature beyond his years.

Perhaps that’s why his father feels confident that Matthias is more than ready to join the pro ranks.

“He handles himself very well and I’m very happy he has very good behavior, not only the golf course but off of it,” Andreas Schwab said. “He’s gotten a very good education, which was very important. I feel well with him and positive with how he is now.”

Said Limbaugh: “He respects the game and he’s a gentlemen. I love the way he represents himself and represents us.”

As Arnold Palmer once said, “Success in this game depends less on strength of body than strength of mind and character.”

Matthias Schwab exemplifies that to a tee.

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