The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.
BY ANDY BAGGOT | UWBadgers.com Insider
Steve Stricker has traveled the world over, created a comfortable life for his Madison-based family and become a celebrity thanks to the game of golf.
He’s won 12 PGA Tour titles, amassed 107 top-10 finishes and won in excess of $40 million since turning pro in 1990.
He’s played in three Ryder Cups and five President’s Cups, including one stint as captain.
He’s crammed a lot of memorable golf-related moments into 50 years of living.
Stricker said one was particularly enjoyable and unique.
It took place not on a manicured 18-hole layout, but on a makeshift platform adjacent to the video board in the north end zone at Camp Randall Stadium.
Instead of a gallery with hundreds of fans lining a narrow tee box and fairway, there was an audience of 80,341 on hand waiting to erupt.
Instead of a caddy and big bag of clubs at the ready, Stricker had two irons and three swings to make good on an exhibition of skill.
The promotional experience didn’t go off as Stricker hoped, but he smiles and laughs as he recounts it.
“It’s one that I think is a pretty cool highlight to my career,” he said. “It was pretty awesome.”
Stricker grew up in Edgerton, which is 30 miles or so from Madison, and attended Illinois even though his wife, Nicki, was a standout golfer at Wisconsin and her father, Dennis Tiziani, coached the Badgers.
That helps explain the scene at Camp Randall on Oct. 11, 2014. The Wisconsin football team hosted Illinois in a Big Ten Conference game with Stricker providing the halftime entertainment.
The PGA of America was looking to promote its signature brand on Wisconsin soil and Steve Stricker was a willing participant.
Ten months before the PGA Championship was to be staged at Whistling Straits near Kohler, Stricker agreed to a unique stunt.
He would hit golf balls from the base of the massive scoreboard at Camp Randall. If Stricker could get one to nestle inside the Motion W painted at midfield, a random fan would win a PGA Championship prize package.
“They wanted to have a little fun with it,” Stricker said of golf’s governing body in the U.S. “I really wanted to do it. I thought it would be a lot of fun.”
It was, but the adventure came with some stress.
“I knew the shot I was going to hit was definitely going to be a shot in front of more people than I’ve ever hit a shot before. I’m sitting up there all by myself. It was kind of intimidating.”
– Steve Stricker
It began when Stricker came to Camp Randall to practice for his exhibition.
“I went up there one day to hit a couple of practice shots,” he said. “It was freezing cold. It was windy. I’m hitting from so far up there on top (of the video board) that the ball was moving a lot. It was hard to control.
“I can’t remember how many balls I hit, but when I left I’m thinking this is going to be a lot harder than I first thought it was going to be.”
The weather conditions were much better when game day rolled around — 46 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze at Stricker’s back — but more anxiety came to life as Stricker prepared for his show.
“I knew the shot I was going to hit was definitely going to be a shot in front of more people than I’ve ever hit a shot before,” he said. “I’m sitting up there all by myself. It was kind of intimidating.”
Stricker has played in a lot of pressurized situations in his golf career — major tournaments and international events — but nothing quite like this.
He mentioned participating in a free-throw shooting contest at a UW men’s basketball game at the Kohl Center — 17,287 is a sellout crowd — but “this was to another level,” he said.
Stricker estimated the yardage from platform to midfield was 137 yards. He had two clubs with him — a wedge and a 9 iron — in part because he didn’t know how windy things would be at elevation.
“I didn’t want to have to hit a full shot, so I took a little extra club and was trying to chip them down there,” he said. “I was just trying not to send one up in the crowd.
“Everything went really well except for I didn’t hit it in the ‘W.’ One landed in there one time, but then it bounced out.
“It was really a nice day. The wind wasn’t blowing that much. But I still couldn’t get one to stop inside the ‘W.’
“I felt a lot of pressure. No warm-up swing. I was just trying to get one to stay in there.”
Some wondered if Stricker was impeded by the safety harness he was wearing.
“With OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and all the rules and everything, I had to have a harness around me,” he said. “I had to walk out there on that deck with a harness attached to me and they had a rope attached to the harness. It was a little overboard, but they had to follow the rules.”
Did it complicate the shot?
“Not at all,” Stricker said. “It was OK.”
What would he do differently?
“I kept hitting it a little too far I think,” Stricker said of his 9 iron shots. “I had the line pretty good, but the distance was off.”
The Camp Randall crowd appreciated the effort, not to mention the on-field outcome. The Badgers rallied from a 14-7 deficit to prevail 38-28 over Illinois.
Would Stricker do it again?
“In a heartbeat,” he said without hesitation.
“It was a lot of fun. I remember that I had a good time with it.”
Stricker was asked if there was someone he’d like to see in that lonely, pressurized situation. A PGA peer perhaps? A spouse perhaps? An acquaintance perhaps?
“I’d like to see Barry Alvarez get in there and try it,” Stricker said of the UW Director of Athletics and former football coach. “Let’s see how nervous he gets.”