My Steve Stricker Story
I was playing University Ridge by myself in the fall of 2015. I was there to take a photo gallery for my Wisconsin Golf Trips website, and I got off first so I could zip around quickly. I had just been to U Ridge a couple weeks prior to watch the girls high school state tournament, and I had sat on the 14th hole and watched some girls really struggle on it’s challenging green complex. So when I got to the 14th tee box, I got extra focused not to fall into the same traps. I stepped up to the shortish, dogleg left par 4 and just CRUSHED a drive that had a tight draw on it and curled right down the middle of the fairway.
When I got to my ball, it was almost resting right on top of the 100 yard marker. But as I slowed to a stop, I saw a gaggle of four guys on the green…not playing golf, but having some kind of meeting. I had seen tons of construction and maintenance taking place, so I figured it was the superintendent and some of his staff talking about who knows what. I didn’t get out of the cart until they noticed me and they waved me up. The foursome politely moved off the green, but not near far enough to put me at ease. They literally were standing on the fringe about 20 feet away from the flag. They were probably thinking, “Great drive, this guy must be a player.” But as I stood over the approach shot with my wedge, it was more like, “Please, don’t let me shank one and decapitate one of these poor suckers.” I took a deep breath and pured my best iron of the day to about 8 feet left of the pin.
I drove up, parked quickly, and with my head down said, “Thanks, guys, I’ll get out of your way real quick.” As I walked around the bunker and onto the green I got a “Great shot in there!” from one of the guys. I looked up, and it was Steve Stricker. Turns out he was there mapping out the course for possible tee and hole locations for 2016’s inaugural American Family Championship. I recognized the GM, Mike Gaspard, but didn’t recognize the other two guys, presumably PGA officials. Are you kidding me? My heart was racing. Instead of interrupting their meeting, I just took my (50″ long) putter over and made a good run at a birdie, a high-side lip out. I tapped in for par and tried to get out of their way as quickly as possible. I said, “Thanks again, guys” but then heard Stricker say again, “That was a great shot in there.”
I got back to the cart and sat motionless for about 5 seconds. Should I interrupt them again or shouldn’t I? With an avid golf fan daughter at home, I knew what I had to do. I grabbed my phone and uncomfortably went back up to the group. Mr. Stricker, of course, could not have been nicer when I told him my daughter and I were big fans and she would kill me if I didn’t ask for a picture. As I am about to step away Stricker says, “Hey, can I ask you a question? Were you anchoring your putter on that birdie try?” It was at this point that I lost all perception of where I was and what I should be doing. Instead of removing myself as quickly as I could from the situation, I felt myself going into a detailed explanation of how I stopped anchoring my putter months prior and how it had helped me stand straighter (while demonstrating), relax more, blah, blah blah.
As I got back to the cart, it hit me. “I just had a putting conversation with possibly the greatest putter on the planet.” I smile every time I think of that day!