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With three of the top-10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking raised in Dallas and still calling “Big D” home, AT&T Byron Nelson tournament director John Drago should have a leg up on securing a field of big names to TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, that brings the locals rushing to secure tickets to one of the city’s most popular rites of spring.

But that was before No. 9 Will Zalatoris had season-ending back surgery last month and No. 10 Jordan Spieth withdrew on Monday citing a wrist injury. That leaves Scottie Scheffler, who slipped to No. 2 in the world when he draped a Green Jacket on Spain’s Jon Rahm last month, to take top billing all by himself on the tournament marquee this week.

But Scheffler’s broad shoulders are prepared to carry the load.

Scottie Scheffler and his caddie Ted Scott talk on the second tee during the first round of the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch. (Photo: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports)

“It’s definitely a bit different that when I came here in high school,” cracked Scheffler, who made his PGA Tour debut as a 17-year-old in this tournament in 2014 and finished T-22, during his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday. “I’m fortunate to be able to support a tournament that supported me from a young age. I’m looking forward to play in front of the home crowd and hopefully make some birdies.”

Scheffler’s family became Texas strong when he was 8, relocating to Dallas after his mother, Diane, the breadwinner in the family, landed a COO job at the Dallas law firm Thompson & Knight. On his first visit to Royal Oaks Country Club, a private club where he shaped his game under the watchful eye of Randy Smith, who had coached Justin Leonard to a British Open title in 1997, Scheffler and his father struck up an unlikely friendship.

On the far side of the practice tee they met Rocky Hambric, a golf agent whose first client, Larry Nelson, ended up in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and more recently represented the likes of major winners Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. One Sunday later, the Hambrics and Schefflers bumped into each other again at church and went to lunch afterwards.

“Basically, for the next 10 years or so we ended up spending most of every Sunday together having lunch and watching the golf and really got pretty close with the whole family,” Hambric said.

When it came time for Scheffler to be confirmed in the Catholic church, he chose Hambric as his sponsor since he was the closest thing to family in the area. Smith’s son, Blake, an executive vie president at Hambric Sports Management, serves as Scheffler’s day-to-day agent while Randy became his swing whisperer and unofficial life coach. Hambric was an unofficial adviser to the family, especially since Scheffler’s parents weren’t golfer themselves.

“Unlike a lot of parents that I come into contact with, Scott was a lot more realistic about how much he knew about what it took to be a great pro,” Hambric said. “Most of the parents I run across think they are the second coming of Jack Nicklaus and they aren’t very good. I think in Scott’s case it was always the other way which I really think gave him a leg up on a lot of kids. It was never his parent’s desire. It was always Scottie.”

Despite dominating at the junior golf level, the Schefflers still had their doubts if Scheffler was on track to stardom.

“His dad used to ask me all the time, ‘Are you sure, Rocky? Are you sure he’s good enough? This isn’t going to end in some tremendous disappointment, is it?’ ” Hambric recalled. “I’d say, ‘Calm down, Scott, he’s good enough. He’s very, very special. Just help him grow up as normal as he possibly can and there’s no way this can mess up.’ And that’s exactly what they did.”

Hambric had an eye for talent, and he could see it sitting in his living room on a weekly basis. Scheffler won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2013 and went on to play at the University of Texas. Hambric never doubted that Scheffler could blossom into a major winner and world No. 1.

“He had the short game of a PGA Tour player all along,” Hambric recalled. “He always had the drive and the desire. The only time I had any concern was when he went from 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-4 in such a short time and lost his swing for a while. He was freshman of the year at Texas and then didn’t play all that well his sophomore and junior years – at least to his standard. It just took him a while to grow into his new body. Then he had a good senior year.”

Agents didn’t bother to recruit Scheffler because it was considered a no-brainer that he would sign with Hambric and Smith. But when it came time to turn pro, Hambric told Scheffler’s parents that he wanted to give Scottie a formal agent recruitment presentation.

“I said, ‘Really?’” Diane related to Sports Business Journal last year. “He said, ‘Yes, we really are.’”

Scheffler won four times last year in a span of six events and ascended to No. 1 in the world, but at the same time Hambric was experiencing the worst loss of his life. On March 3, 2022, a week short of his 17th birthday, Hambric’s son, Thomas, died of a blood clot.

“You feel like your whole world has crashed and yet you’re watching a young man on TV who is almost like a son to you do such great things – he just won and won and won – it just lifted my spirit tremendously,” said Hambric, who was touched that Scheffler and clients such as Martin Laird wore Thomas’s initials on their hats during the Players Championship. “Needless to say, ours is a relationship that matters much more than business to me.”

As Scheffler prepares to be the star attraction at this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, Hambric can’t help but think about those doubts that Scheffler’s father once faced.

Said Hambric: “Scott and I still talk all the time and he’ll go, ‘You know, Rocky, you were right all along.’ ”