Career Spotlight: Alumni Scott Sheftall Qualifies For Senior U.S. Open
Scott D. Sheftall (JD 76), a busy trial lawyer in Miami, hadn’t played much serious golf for about 30 years until two years ago when he decided to pick up his clubs and play in a few tournament qualifiers. Still, it was mainly for the enjoyment of competition, and not with any conviction that it would lead him to golfing glory.
Then his “little miracle” happened.
Sheftall entered a 2008 Senior U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Boynton Beach, Fla. on June 27. Against a field of mostly professional players, Sheftall birdied the 18th hole for a score of 70 to force a three-way sudden-death playoff for the second and final qualifying spot. On the third hole of the playoff, he hit a 7-iron stiff to the flag for a winning birdie.
Recalling the special moment Sheftall said, “I turned to my wife Regina as we walked up to the green and saw that I only had a one-and-a-half-foot putt, and I told her, ‘It looks like we’re going to Colorado, Baby.’”
A month later, the Sheftalls were on their way to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the U.S. Senior Open, a major championship featuring the best senior players in the world. During tune-ups for the tournament, Sheftall practiced with former Gator golfer Andy Bean, whom he had coincidentally played against as an undergraduate at Davidson College, and with his friend and client Fuzzy Zoeller.
Although Sheftall didn’t make the cut or even play his best, he achieved his number one goal which was for him and his wife to enjoy being part of it all.
“It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Sheftall said. “I was awestruck by how wonderful it was to play in a national championship — to be inside the ropes on a great U.S.G.A. course with a club in my hands, to be in the locker room with the great players, and to be absorbed in the entire spectacle. Until the Open, no one had ever asked me for my autograph, but I must have signed about 400 for the kids.”
Sheftall’s extra confidence during the qualifying tournament came both from watching his alma mater Davidson in its spectacular NCAA Basketball Tournament run and from having his wife at his side as his caddie.
“I came to understand what Davidson’s head coach Coach Bob McKillop had been getting at when stressing the importance of translating a dream into a belief, a genuine belief, and not just a wish,” Sheftall said.
“To see his players with mostly mid-major talent buy into his philosophy of competition and take down the powerhouses of college basketball was very inspiring, and it really sort of galvanized in me a vision of higher attainable goals. That, coupled with the fact that my wife Regina caddied for me in the qualifier. She had never seen me play competitive golf before; she had never caddied for anyone. But having someone believe in me and be there to keep me calm and focused so I could overcome leg cramps to play my best — She was the final secret ingredient that made the recipe for success complete. It’s truly amazing what a person with modest talent can suddenly achieve when they truly believe in themselves and have someone else confirm that belief.”
Back in his day job, Sheftall is a board certified trial lawyer for Sheftall and Torres, P.A, which he founded in 1996. The firm practices mostly complex civil litigation, both commercial and personal injury. Sheftall has developed an affinity for legal issues involving children’s healthcare and safety, which is complimented by his extensive community service, mostly on behalf of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami. All of that began 15 years ago when Dr. R. Rodney Howell, also a Davidson alumnus and the Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Pediatrics, tapped Scott as a future leader.
In that time, Sheftall has served as a member of the Children’s Council, has chaired important fund-raising projects, has contributed substantial funds for the creation of special facilities at the Batchelor Children’s Institute, and has helped to launch the first-ever patient safety program at the Miller School of Medicine. For his service, the University of Miami’s president welcomed him as a member of The Ibis Society.
“Not too many people could understand why an ardent Gator like myself — I’ve been a Gator since I was 5 years old — could be contributing to the University of Miami,” Sheftall said. “Of course, Gators have always said that Hurricanes need all the help they can get. But, seriously, although I was born and raised in Jacksonville, I’ve lived in the Miami community for over 30 years, and the University of Miami’s world class programs benefitting children’s health care are a good fit for my desire to make my community a better place to live. I believe that lawyers should be involved in their communities in a positive and visible way.”
But Sheftall is still a Gator at heart. His late father graduated from UF in 1934 when it was an all men’s school with only about 2,300 students. Growing up in Jacksonville, Sheftall began witnessing historic Gator games in the late 1950s. In one stretch he attending 35 of 38 Georgia-Florida classics, and he sat ten feet from Auburn’s War Eagle mascot when Steve Spurrier kicked the 43-yard game-winning field goal to keep the Gators undefeated and clinch the 1966 Heisman Trophy.
“That was a whole lot more fun than the Lindsey Scott play,” he said.
The Sheftall’s have two Boykin Spaniel retrievers. The oldest is named “Saurian,” a nod to dinosaur ancestors of Albert and Alberta, and a term students in his father’s day used occasionally when referring to the Gator footballers.
“I might have named the puppy ‘Wildcat,’ just to keep things in balance, but that would have been the worst possible name for a dog. Fortunately, we had ample inspiration to name the puppy ‘Tebow.’ If there are any linguering doubts about my allegiance to the University of Florida, that should put it to rest.”