Nicki Stricker has played hundreds of rounds of golf with her husband, Steve, and their daughters, Bobbi and Izzi. They were always working toward goals, but what was Nicki working toward?
Competing with her daughters, pushing them and being pushed by them, was one thing. Teeing it up in a tournament — something she hadn’t done “in a good 20 years” — was quite another.
Turns out Nicki’s still got game.
On Thursday, the four-year letter-winner at the University of Wisconsin (1988-’91) qualified for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 5 at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Stricker, 54, of Madison, shot a 7-over-par 77 at Glenview (Ill.) Park Golf Club to earn one of four spots. Maggie Leef of Pewaukee was the medalist with a 75 and Sarah DeKraay of Madison also qualified with a 79.
Stricker, a three-time Madison City women’s champion, said she hadn’t played a tournament round in two decades. And it’s been 31 years since she qualified for the 1992 U.S. Women’s Amateur — her only previous USGA championship — at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove, Ill.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I just was like playing with my family. They’re all doing their thing and working toward something. I kept trying to get better, but what am I trying to get better for?
“It was just that — to kind of see what would happen if I was actually getting ready for something. Just throw a score up there and see what happens.”
Nicki has caddied regularly for Steve on the PGA Tour Champions, but he couldn’t reciprocate because he was on Bobbi’s bag at Stage 1 of LPGA/Epson Tour Qualifying School in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Bobbi, who played on the Epson Tour this year, missed the 54-hole cut Wednesday by one stroke.
Instead, Nicki had a close friend, Kathy Hart Wood, on her bag. But Steve, Bobbi and Izzi — a senior at Waunakee High School and the defending WIAA Division 1 individual champion — were thrilled for her.
“Steve kind of chuckled and said, ‘Well, you’ve been working hard enough at it,’ which I have,” Nicki said. “It doesn’t mean things are going to turn out like I want them to, but I gave myself every opportunity to succeed.
“To have (Bobbi and Izzi) say, ‘Mom, I’m proud of you,’ is a pretty cool feeling.”
Nicki said she didn’t check the scores during her round, but after she made a double-bogey on the 14th hole and a bogey on the 15th, she had a feeling she was on the bubble.
“I told my caddie, ‘I just want to give myself (birdie) looks on the last three holes,’” she said. “I knew there were four spots. Again, throw a score up there and see what happens. And it was good enough. I had (birdie) putts on all three holes. I didn’t make any, but I hit the shots in there to have those opportunities. That felt good.”
She qualified for the 1992 U.S. Women’s Amateur and made it to match play, but doesn’t remember much else, other than that Steve flew in from a tournament in Canada to caddie for her. That year, Mishicot’s Vicki Goetze beat Annika Sorenstam, 1-up, in the championship match.
“That was a long time ago,” said Nicki, who played for her father, Dennis Tiziani, at UW and finished fourth in the Big Ten Championships as a senior.
Leef, a member of the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame, qualified for her third USGA championship of 2023, an impressive achievement. She missed the cut last week at the U.S. Women’s Open and also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, to be played Sept. 9-14 at Stonewall (North Course) in Elverson, Pa,
Nicki will again have Hart Wood on the bag at Troon; Steve will be in Rome, Italy, serving as an assistant captain on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“I was not going to go to Rome, anyway,” she said. “I’ll be able to watch the (WIAA) regionals, then I’ll hop on a plane. I’ll miss sectionals but I’ll be back hopefully for Izzi going back to state.”
She harbors no illusions of winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
“No expectations,” she said. “Just have fun.”