My favorite photo – the U.S. Open

I know, I know. You’re not supposed to take pictures on the course at the U.S. Open.

But, I love the story of the Stricker family and I think you will too.

So, I snuck a shot or two of Steve Stricker as he approached the sixth hole at Erin Hills on Saturday because he has the coolest caddie on the PGA tour– his wife, Nicki Stricker.

Their very Wisconsin story of love, loyalty, hard work, good manners and talent began 30 years ago when Steve, then playing collegiate golf at the University of Illinois came home for  the summer and took University of Wisconsin golf coach Dennis Tiziani up on his offer to give him some lessons. 

The two men were sitting in a golf cart when Steve saw a pretty girl walk past.

“I looked up and saw her and kind of elbowed Tiz,” he said in an NBC interview. “I said, ‘Hey, take a look at her. Do you know her?’

“He said, ‘Sure do. That’s my daughter, Nicki.’”

The part of the story he doesn’t tell, according to Nicki, is that he was so shy she had to ask him out on the first date.

Though he went back to finish his degree at Illinois and she went to the University of Wisconsin, where she earned four letters on the Badger golf team and finished fourth in the 1991 Big Ten Championships, the two remain inseparable.

They married in 1993 and, to this day, Nicki often caddies for her husband. Last summer, she also caddied for their oldest daughter Bobbi, a current member of the UW golf team.

I enjoyed watching them work together on Saturday and, frankly, admired the way she hauled those clubs around that challenging course.

Steve Stricker has won 12 events on the PGA tour, made three Ryder Cup appearances and earned the PGA Comeback Player of the Year twice. He received the Payne Stewart Award in 2012 and the Bryon Nelson Award in 2013.

He is arguably the most polite golfer on the tour, and the crowds at Erin Hills let him know how glad they were to see him play in the U.S. Open in his home state.

I read a little more about the Stricker/Tiziani family after watching them in action, and I think this story from sums up the relationship we were all privileged to see in action last weekend:

He’s also the guy who got choked up at dinner the night before the final round of the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee because he was playing in the last group the next day and Nicki was home, nine months pregnant.

“I really want to win tomorrow,” he said. “But I just can’t imagine winning without Nicki being here.”

Here’s to Team Stricker! It was an honor to see you play.

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I really enjoyed watching the Strickers work together on a course practically down the road from their house in Mauston.
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