AMazing time at the American Family Insurance Championship
I spent last week at the American Family Insurance Championship, the Champions Tour event hosted by Steve Stricker at University Ridge G.C., in Madison. I was there in a working capacity, helping the tournament’s social team capture and create content. In addition to watching some great golf, I also came away with a few key tips on my short game, new warm-up stretches and some amazing memories.
It all started with the Pro-Am Pairings Party on Tuesday night. The tournament’s host and Madison native, Steve Stricker welcomed everyone to the event, comedian Charlie Berens performed and a band played.
As pairings were announced, I found out I would be playing with Skip Kendall in the Pro-Am the next morning. A fellow Milwaukee native, Kendall has 6 professional wins, including the Wisconsin State Open in 1988 and 1989, so I was looking forward to talking Wisconsin golf with him.
However, as I showed up the course the next day, so did the steady, driving rain, which eventually washed out the morning Pro-Am. My plans for the round were dashed, but I still introduced myself to Kendall. He is now giving lessons in Orlando, and as I expressed my continued putting woes, he offered to give me some pointers if the weather cleared up.
Without much content to capture, I was hanging out in the media room as it rained when I got a pleasant surprise. Kendall found me, and proceeded to give me an hour-long(!) putting lesson on the room’s Badgers-red carpet.
We talked about set-up, posture, grip, routine and more during that time and he even took some videos, which he later sent to me with reminders about the tweaks we made.
I was floored. He went above and beyond to help me. Even though it was raining, he could’ve found many other things to do, so I was extremely grateful for the assistance.
The rain dragged on into the early afternoon, forcing the afternoon Pro-Am into a delayed 9-hole shotgun start. A few people were no longer able to participate so at the last minute, the officials offered me the chance to sub in, which I gladly accepted. Executive social media advisor Tom Buchheim and I were paired up with 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize and his caddie, Chris. And we had a blast.
Like Kendall, Mize couldn’t have been nicer. He helped us read our putts and cheered for our good shots. His professionalism and consistency were incredible and it was an honor to play with him.
I wasn’t sure how my Wednesday experience could be topped, but the next day I worked with Spanish pro Miguel Angel Jimenez to capture his unique pre-round stretching routine and ended up trailing two-time Major winner John Daly’s pro-am group because they were a riot. I captured Daly singing along to his own album and performing a very Daly-esque trick shot. Both golfers are known for their distinctive personalities and both very much lived up to the hype.
The tournament itself began on Friday and, in addition to seeing a lot of great golf (including many of the pros that I grew up watching) and documenting all the amenities and attractions for fans along the course, it was awesome to see up close and personal just how much the tournament impacts the local community through the Stricker Foundation. Steve, his wife, Nicki and their two daughters, Bobbi and Izzy are invaluable assets to the state and great ambassadors of the game.
Thus, it’s easy to see why so many people, including Steve’s fellow Champions Tour pros, are big fans of the Stricker family.
Personally, I became an even bigger fan this week. I’m incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to experience the #AmFamChamp up close and personally and I’m already looking forward to 2023.