The Steve Stricker Story
Putting the Pro in Professional
By Glen Turk
It was the legendary Ben Hogan who coined the phrase "the secret is in the dirt." In the case of the two-time PGA Tour Comeback Player of The Year (2006 & 2007) and Wisconsin native, Steve Stricker, that phrase can be altered to "the secret is in the Astroturf." For on a cold, unforgiving 3x5 patch of fake grass was where the former University of Illinois product resurrected his game. In Steve's own words it was a case of mind over matter during the 2005 off season in wintry Wisconsin.
"I think it was just a dedication again, trying to make it right in my mind first before getting to work," began Stricker, "and knowing that this is really what I wanted to do for a living. I had my wife telling me that this is what I needed to do, and I figured I wasn't really capable of doing anything else. I just had to put the work together. So I starting hitting balls and started changing things because what I was doing wasn't really working all that well. I think that a lot to do with it was my attitude. I had a poor attitude going. I didn't have a lot of confidence. And I tried to change those things first along with my swing, so I had those couple of things, my mental approach and my physical game had to change and that's what I went to work on at the end of the 2005 season beginning of 2006. I still continue to work on the same things today as I did back then. That's what I think has been very helpful in my progression that I'm still continuing to do the same things. I don't jump around to different things. I still work on basically the same things I did then. And that's what I have done, I just put in more work and more emphasis on having a better attitude while I'm out there playing," concluded Steve.
Golf much like life is a process and according to Andy North, fellow cheese head and two-time U.S Open winner, it was all about Steve becoming comfortable in his own skin. "What happens in our game is such a fine line between playing well, your confidence is up, your hitting good shots, maybe getting a few breaks every once and a while and things are going great. But it can turn so quickly, the snowball gets bigger and it can turn the opposite way and he lost confidence- and as a player once you lose confidence you start questioning yourself and he went through a horrible time. But he was man enough to fight through it, he's done an unbelievable job figuring out what's best for Steve and I think that's the key thing on all sports, professional life and business- find out what works for you and keep doing it," finished North.
Finding out what works and repeating it has served Steve well since 2006. Stricker's turnaround is of such epic proportions that he was named PGA Comeback Player of The Year not once, but twice consecutively after the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Clearly going from #646 in the world to as high as #2 and now at his current perch of #11 was so mind boggling to the voters that exceptions needed to be made. But for the humble Stricker, it's never been about winning awards or even tournaments for that matter. Instead, it's about how Steve can use his platform to positively impact others less fortunate. "It's about helping out and giving back not only to the charitable causes that you're affiliated with, but helping other players as well. I believe helping others is engrained in golfers - it's part of the deal to give back, and I am just trying to do my best," stated Steve.
Thanks in large part to his work ethic and sincere way he carries himself, Steve has earned the type of respect on TOUR that players of any caliber rarely feel. Fellow Wisconsinite and five-time PGA TOUR Winner Mark Wilson relates a Stricker story that speaks of Steve's high character. "Steve played in the Wisconsin State Open a few times in the late '90s while he was a full member of the PGA TOUR. He said that he wanted to promote professional golf in the Wisconsin Section and thought his presence might do so. With it starting on a Monday, he would often have just finished up a PGA TOUR event or even a major the day before. In 1998, I remember him finishing second at the PGA Championship and he was still there for his Monday tee time in the Wisconsin State Open. Talk about honoring your commitment! Steve and I were paired together for the opening two rounds in the 1999 Wisconsin State Open, and I still remember him wishing me luck at Q-school when we finished. He was able to sympathize with me since he remembers those days," said Wilson.
Stricker's stellar play and caring way truly serves as something to emulate. American Matt Kuchar, after winning this year's Player's Championship had this to say about his level of respect for the 12-time TOUR winner. "I am just trying to pattern my game after Steve Stricker's. Every week he comes out and is in contention to win. That's the consistency that I am striving for and hopefully someday I'll get there," explained Kuchar.
The consistency that Matt speaks of can be traced to Steve's consecutive cuts made streak of 49 that ended this year at the Player's Championship. At the time 49 straight cuts made was more than double his closest competitor. With 12 TOUR wins (9 since since 2007) and over 33 million dollars in earnings, Steve has distinguished himself as one of the most dominant American golfers of his generation. That case is only further cemented by his solid record in the Presidents and Ryder Cups, normally when paired with the sometimes-hard-to-partner-with Tiger Woods. "I believe we've meshed together so well because we get along with one another, even though our personalities are probably completely opposite. But we do a lot of similar things out on the golf course, I guess, little things. He hits it much further than I do, but I think, we manage our games and go about our business out on the golf course. And when I get out there I'm all about business and trying to get it done, and so is he," described Stricker, who when paired with Woods went 4-0 in the 2009 President's Cup.
In a career filled with a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, all that's missing is the ultimate high- the opportunity to win a major championship. "If I knew the key hopefully I would have won by now, but I haven't had a lot of looks at trying to win a major. I've been in contention in some, not as many as I would have hoped to. If that label is put on me (best player not to win a major) it's an honor, really, it tells you that you've been playing some pretty good golf and you just haven't been able to win one of the big ones. It's not life or death if I don't win a major, but I'd sure like to get one," confided the three-time John Deere Classic Champion.
The above quote is Steve Stricker in a nutshell - intelligent, diplomatic, and sincere all at the same time. That's what makes Steve Stricker any easy answer to the question, "Who is your favorite American golfer?"
Revised: 09/14/2013 - Article Viewed 23,924 Times
About: Glen Turk
Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native and is the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine. Midwest Golfing Magazine was formerly known as Pub-Links Golfer's Magazine and is a free publication distributed four times per year throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.
His duties at MGM include writing course features, facilitating product testing, and overseeing the overall content and look of the magazine. But clearly his most important task is playing as much golf as his wife allows. Fortunately for him, she plays also and loves out-driving him even with a 60 yard head start.
Glen plays to a 6 handicap but once set a record by having his ball retriever regripped 15 times in one calendar year. It was a December trip to Guam that ultimately did him in. Finally, if you haven't caught on by now, the two most worthy weapons in Glen's writing arsenal are self-deprecating humor and pithy one-liners.
My signature line, "Be A Force on The Course" and now more recently, "Hit 'Em Where They Mow!" can be reused at no charge.
Contact Glen Turk:
Midwest Golfing Magazine - Senior Writer Editor