SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER’s amazing rise to World No. 1 – and his bid for Masters glory – is inspired by a young cancer victim.
Scheffler, 25, and James Ragan grew up inseparable and his friend’s death at just 20 from a rare form of bone cancer was a devastating blow.
The two families reunited in Augusta to celebrate Scheffler’s epic leap from seeking his first PGA Tour win to becoming the world’s top golfer in a record-breaking 42 days.
And to remember James.
Scheffler’s run has seen him win three times in his last five starts. So his performance in closing the largest 36-hole lead in Masters history – he was eight under five ahead of the field – shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
But golf took a backseat when he met the Ragans before the tournament started after arranging tickets for them.
James’ sister Mecklin said it was an emotional reunion and recalled how her brother and Scottie had become so close as junior golfers.
She said: “James would be so proud of him, but he would also be like, ‘Yeah, it’s about time Scottie, why did you take so long?’
“They met while playing golf. Scottie was identified as a standout junior and James thrived despite his illness and they played events together.
“He was two years older than Scottie but they hit it off right away and became very close.
“I remember a time when they teamed up and won this prestigious adult event at a top country club. They were just kids having a great time and James didn’t want illness to ruin it.
“He played in tournaments with a chemo pack around his waist connected to a needle in his leg.
“He made the best of what he could – but Scottie was just in a different class to everyone else.
“James was a promising tennis player before he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. He had just turned 13.
“So he started chemo, had surgery to save the leg and got a metal knee replacement.
“It bought James time and although he was forced to give up tennis he found golf. He also met Scottie.
James was a really positive influence on Scottie… he was inspirational
Mecklin, sister of James Ragan
“What James respected so much about Scottie was that he saw someone younger than him with an incredible talent that didn’t waste it.
“James said to me, ‘I’ve only got so many days, months, years to live and I’m trying to make the most of my time. And the people around me squander their gifts given. But not Scotty. He goes really far.’
“I don’t want to put words in Scottie’s mouth, but I’d like to think that James was a really positive influence on him. James did it to everyone he met. He was inspirational.”
Scheffler’s father, Scott, acknowledged the impact growing up with such a brave boy had on his son.
Scott explained, “There is no doubt that the influence was a two-way street and James taught Scottie a lot.
“He gave him this attitude that while you have to give everything you have, you also have to remember that it’s just a game.
“If you’ve done your best, that’s all you can do. Some things are just out of your control.”
Scheffler is deeply religious and rarely speaks about his life off the golf course.
Nonetheless, he has helped raise more than £3million for the charity set up to commemorate James, Triumph over Kid Cancer.
He was there when the charity was launched just before his friend died eight years ago.
He broke down in tears and said: “This foundation probably won’t save James’ life, but it will save many other children.
“I thought of James out there. We’d been texting all week and he told me it’s never over until it’s over.”
And that mantra continues to serve Scheffler well, ensuring he can handle whatever golf – and life – throws at him.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5090965/masters-scottie-scheffler-friend-death-cancer/ Runaway leader Scottie Scheffler was propelled to Augusta’s fame after his best friend’s tragic death from a rare cancer