The next Tiger Woods? Former UA golfer Chip Deason coaching golf’s rising star, Xeve Perez

Miguel Perez remembers the first time he and his son, Xavier, met Chip Deason.

“My son was 3½. We were at Bartram Trail,” Miguel Perez said. “Chip was practicing. Someone pointed him out to us. They said, ‘See that guy? He plays on the mini tours and played at Alabama.’ I told Xavier to look at what he’s doing and watch him.”

Deason remembers that day on the Evans, Georgia, golf course, too.

“I was practicing for a tournament. I see this little kid and his dad out on the putting green,” Deason said. “I thought, ‘Wow. He’s really little, but he’s really good. He’s got a great swing.’ I couldn’t help it. I had to go over there and tell them, ‘Hey, he’s got potential.’

“I go over there and meet the dad. He says his name is Miguel. Then I meet Xavier. Xavier takes his hat off, walks up to me and says, ‘I’m Xavier Perez. I’m going to win The Masters.’ He was 3 years old. I’m like, this kid is so determined. He knows exactly what he wants to do. And he’s been that way the whole time.”

That’s when the bond began. The veteran pro and the rookie. They shared the same instructor, swing coach Doug Cameron. Deason helped Xavier with his short game and putting. Cameron worked with him on his full game. Deason and Xavier would hit balls and practice together. Their families became friends.

Miguel Perez said he and Xeve, his son’s nickname, were determined to enlist Deason as Xeve’s primary coach. Xeve, at 4, had already won four tournaments in the 5-6 age division of the Palmetto Junior Golf Tour, including the first tournament he ever played. But because Deason was still playing professional golf, he wasn’t available. The All-Southeastern Conference golfer graduated from the University of Alabama in 1998, turned pro in 1999 and had been playing golf, full time, ever since.

Miguel and Xeve were willing to wait, and wait they did. They waited from 2013 until June 2019. As soon as Deason played his final pro round on June 8, 2019, he took over as Xeve’s main coach.

That they were willing to wait is a tribute to the Bibb County graduate who won Alabama Junior Golf Association championships in 1991 and 1992. Xeve is being compared to a young Tiger Woods with more than 300 wins already, and he’s only 10. He’s playing against 14-year-olds, and he’s winning. He was featured on NBC’s “The Today Show” Aug. 21 and will soon appear on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and “The Steve Harvey Show.”

“His golf IQ is through the roof,” Deason said. “You’ve got to remind yourself that he’s still 10 and likes to play video games.

“Every time we go out for a playing lesson or whatever, it’s exciting to me. He never misses the center of the club face. And he’s 10. He can hit every shot. Even if he misses the green, he knows what to do. His short game is really good. His chipping, the bunker game – all that is good. I’ve said it a thousand times: he’s just like a little tour player.”

The admiration is mutual.

“He’s very hands-off on my swing,” Xeve said. “He doesn’t try to change it. If I’m doing something wrong, he’ll correct me and say do this and the ball goes straight. That’s what I like about him: he’s hands-off. He lets me play my game. He’s a really good coach.

“He’s helped me the most in my short game. Before if I had a chip about 12 feet away, I would maybe put it about three feet. Now I can put it in the hole much better. It’s been a big improvement.”

Deason is head golf professional at Belle Meade Country Club in Thomson, Georgia. The Perez family lives in Evans, Georgia, and spends 40 minutes on the road a couple of times a week taking Xeve to work with Deason.

“I think he trusts what I say because I did play professional golf,” Deason said. “Even when we go play, I’m definitely trying not to let him win. I’m competing as hard as I can because I don’t want a 10-year-old to beat me.”

Miguel said the plan is to stay with Deason.

“We’ve had a lot of top-level coaches, but we were always waiting for the opportunity to come to Chip,” Miguel said. “When we talk about Chip, it’s for the long haul. And maybe when Xavier goes on tour one day, we hope Chip will be there. That’s our plan. It’s for the long haul. Chip is just so awesome. It’s not something temporary. He was worth the wait. Xavier loves him.”

Deason turns 46 on Oct. 13. He hasn’t ruled out joining the PGA’s Champions Tour when he’s 50. Meanwhile, he’s working on steering his phenom to the Crimson Tide. It’s working.

“I have a lot of goals. One is to meet Tiger Woods. And one of my goals is to beat Chip. And I’ve come close, but he beat me by two strokes or three,” Xeve said. “I want to go to either Stanford (Woods’ alma mater) or Alabama. I have my Alabama sweater. One day I ran into the pro shop and said, ‘Look what I have on.’ It was a red shirt that had the Alabama logo on it.”

“He’s got this drive to get better, always get better,” Deason said. “He knows how to win, and that’s hard to teach. He’s used to winning. He loves to win. He hates to lose. He wants to play on the PGA Tour, and there’s nothing telling me that he can’t. Ever since he was 3 years old, he’s had that same dream, that same drive.”

Note: An earlier version of this story listed Chip Deason as the 1997 SEC individual champion. He was not the individual champion but was All-SEC. This version notes the correction.

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