MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Steve Stricker is busily preparing for a Champions Tour event in 2016 that he won’t even be eligible to play.
That’s how much it means to him to get a regular professional golf date back in his home state of Wisconsin.
The PGA announced on Monday that its Champions Tour will stop at the University of Wisconsin’s University Ridge Course in Madison starting in June 2016. Stricker will serve as host of the American Family Insurance Championship.
“This has been a dream and development … to get an event and get professional back to Wisconsin,” Stricker said Monday at a pavilion near the sun-drenched course.
The last regular date in Wisconsin was the PGA Tour stop in Milwaukee that ended in 2009 following a 42-year run.
Finally, Stricker and the PGA found an ideal sponsor and venue. American Family is based in Madison; Stricker is from Edgerton, about 35 miles away.
No wonder Stricker wants in early on the Champions Tour, which is open to golfers once they turn 50. Stricker, 48, plays on the regular PGA circuit.
“We were talking about maybe changing my birth certificate,” Stricker joked to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.
The tournament will have an 81-player field competing for a $2 million purse. A no-cut event will include pro-ams on June 22-23, followed by three days of tournament play.
Stricker will host the inaugural tourney next year before becoming player-host in 2017. Jerry Kelly, who is from Madison, would also be eligible to play at the new stop in a couple years with Stricker.
The new Champions Tour stop is the latest boost for professional golf fans in Wisconsin, which will host the PGA Championship in August at Whistling Straits in Kohler.
The U.S. Open will be held at Erin Hills in 2017. Whistling Straits will host the Ryder Cup in 2020.
Promoters are optimistic the American Family Insurance Championship will draw an attractive field because of its connection to the well-respected Stricker.
“It’s an exciting time for Wisconsin golf,” Stricker said. “This gives us an opportunity to showcase professional golf on a yearly basis.”
Stricker attended the University of Illinois, though his close ties to Wisconsin include being a season-ticket holder to Badgers basketball games. It was during a game this past season that Stricker approached Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez about holding the tournament at the university.
“I immediately said let’s move forward and make it happen,” Alvarez said. “We think we have a world-class course, one that will represent and fare very well with this tournament.”
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