Report: Ryder Cup to be postponed to 2021

Golf fans in the state of Wisconsin are going to have to wait another year to see the best in America and Europe battle it out at the Ryder Cup.

According to The Guardian, the matchup between American and European golfers set for Whistling Straits in Kohler has been postponed until 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. An official announcement is expected next week.

The PGA Tour resumed play earlier in June, while the European Tour is slated to return in July. But both are doing so without fans. That is not something that has ever seriously been considered for the Ryder Cup due to the importance of the crowds at the biennial competition.

The Guardian reports that the tournament will go back to be an odd-year tournament as it was prior to 2001 when 9/11 forced a postponement.

American Family Insurance Championship canceled, $2.8 million donated to local charities

One of the marquee sporting events in Madison every summer has been canceled.

It was announced Thursday afternoon that the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge would not be held this year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“In light of the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and in collaboration with the PGA TOUR Champions, we have made the decision to cancel the American Family Insurance Championship scheduled for May 30-June 7. The cancellation of all events associated with championship week include tournament competition, UW Carbone’s Race for Research, and the concert featuring Little Big Town and the BoDeans.

While we explored, in collaboration with the PGA TOUR, alternative dates in 2020 to execute tournament week, a number of conflicting factors prevented this option. Ultimately, the health and safety of the fans, volunteers, sponsors, players, caddies and the many individuals involved in the preparation and execution of the championship is our top priority.”

Organizers announced that planning for the 2021 event has already started, with the tournament set for June 5-13. It will include a Friday concert with Little Big Town and the BoDeans, as planned.

Meanwhile, even though there won’t be a tournament this year, organizers will still donate $2.8 million to local charities.

“The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation will immediately distribute $2.8 million to charity organizations, including $1 million to the American Family Children’s Hospital/UW Hospitals and $800,000 to southcentral and southeastern Wisconsin non-profit organizations the Foundation supported in 2019. The remaining $1 million will be donated to COVID-19 relief efforts in Wisconsin.”

Governor extends Safer at Home order but allows golf courses to open

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday that the state’s safer-at-home order had been extended to May 26 — a day after Memorial Day. The order includes keeping K-12 schools closed for the remainder of the school year.

“We aren’t out of the woods just yet,” Evers said. “As I’ve said all along, we are going to rely on the science and public health experts to guide us through this challenge.”

However, in a bit of bright news for sports fans, the order will allow golf courses in the state to open. The previous order did not include them in what was considered essential business. There will be restrictions, though.

1. The use of golf carts is prohibited.
2. Social Distancing Requirements must be observed at all times, unless the players reside in the same living unit or household.
3. All tee times and payments must be made in advance online or by phone.
4. Clubhouses and pro shops must remain closed. Any restaurant or bar facility may remain open and must comply with all restrictions in Section 13.d. and 13.e. of this Order.
5. Tee times must be spaced to avoid multiple foursomes from clustering or gathering at any stage of the course.
6. All maintenance work and groundskeepers shall comply with Section 2.b.i. and 2.b.ii. of this Order. All other functions may only continue under Minimum Basic Operations.
7. Driving ranges and miniature golf must remain closed.

You can read the full order here

American Family Insurance Championship postponed

The American Family Insurance Championship has officially been postponed.

That was the word Friday after the University of Wisconsin extended its campus closure until at least June 30 due to the COVID-19. The closure includes University Ridge Golf Course, which where the Champions Tour event is held.

The tournament released the following statement:

“We are aware of the decision by the University of Wisconsin to keep its facilities closed through the month of June. We have been working closely alongside the PGA TOUR with the joint understanding the 2020 American Family Insurance Championship would not be held during its scheduled dates of May 30 – June 7. The health and safety of fans, sponsors, volunteers, employees, competitors and all associated with the event will continue to be our number one priority. More information on the American Family Insurance Championship and its continued commitment to Madison and area charities will be announced next week.”

The 2019 Am Fam Championship raised $2.4 million for area charities, the most in the tournament’s four-year history.

Major golf organizations announce revised schedule, Ryder Cup still a go

There will be professional golf played this summer, including in Wisconsin.

The organizations that make up the golf world announced a revised schedule Monday morning. While COVID-19 has led to the cancelation of the British Open, the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open have been rescheduled.

Here is the joint statement from the Augusta National Golf Club, European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, The R&A and USGA:

“This is a difficult and challenging time for everyone coping with the effects of this pandemic. We remain very mindful of the obstacles ahead, and each organization will continue to follow the guidance of the leading public health authorities, conducting competitions only if it is safe and responsible to do so.

“In recent weeks, the global golf community has come together to collectively put forward a calendar of events that will, we hope, serve to entertain and inspire golf fans around the world.  We are grateful to our respective partners, sponsors and players, who have allowed us to make decisions – some of them, very tough decisions – in order to move the game and the industry forward.

“We want to reiterate that Augusta National Golf Club, European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, The R&A and USGA collectively value the health and well-being of everyone, within the game of golf and beyond, above all else. We encourage everyone to follow all responsible precautions and make effort to remain healthy and safe.”

Here are the rescheduled dates for the major PGA tournaments:

PGA Championship: Aug. 3-9
US Open: Sept. 14-20
Masters: Nov. 9-15

Meanwhile, the Ryder Cup, set to played at Whistling Straits in Kohler, will go off as scheduled from Sept. 22-27.

American Family Insurance Championship raised $2.4M for charity in 2019

The American Family Insurance Championship announced its tournament proceeds during a Wednesday ceremony and it was another record-setting year.

According to a press release, the tournament, hosted by Steve Stricker, raised $2.4 million for charitable organizations in the area — a 21-percent increase over 2018. Now in its fourth year, the total amount raised has hit $7.16 million.

“We continue to be humbled by the amazing support we’ve received for the American Family Insurance Championship,” Stricker and his wife, Nicki, said in the press release. “Volunteers, sponsors, the PGA TOUR and fans have quickly turned an idea into a community celebration that provides critical assistance to organizations that help those in need. We want to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved.”

About half of the money raised will be given to the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison. Officials say the rest of the approximately $1.2 million will be distributed between nearly 100 other mostly local charities.

“The golf and energy of tournament week is incredible, but it’s the meaningful long-lasting impact made through the money raised for charity that’s most important,” said Jack Salzwedel, American Family Insurance chair and CEO. “We are so grateful to host the American Family Insurance Championship, and to be part of an effort that helps our neighbors in need and makes our community special.”

The tournament is held at University Ridge and is part of the PGA TOUR Champions schedule. It drew more than 70,000 fans this past year and officials says the local economic impact of the event is around $15 million.

“In four short years, the American Family Insurance Championship has set a gold standard on PGA TOUR Champions, delivering an exciting tournament product for our players, partners and fans, while creating a tremendous community footprint,” said PGA TOUR Champions President Miller Brady in the press release. “Today’s amazing charity announcement is a direct result of the efforts put forth by American Family Insurance, Nicki and Steve Stricker, and we are excited to partner with an event that has had such a great impact on families and children in the region.”

The 2020 event will be held May 30-June 7, with the actual tournament taking place June 5-7.

Madison’s Jerry Kelly claims American Family Insurance Championship title

VERONA, Wis. — Twice on Sunday Jerry Kelly was ready to give his version of a concession speech. Less than 45 minutes later the Madison resident was holding up the glass trophy after winning the American Family Insurance Championship.

Kelly played a great final round with seven birdies and had a one-shot lead when he stepped to the tee on the 18th hole. A birdie or par likely would have given him the win. Instead, he bogeyed for just the second time the entire tournament.

He walked off the green in a three-way tie at -15 and behind him Retief Goosen smoked a perfect shot within a few feet of the hole, giving him a perfect opportunity to break the tie and take the lead with a short putt. Kelly made his way to the media room, fully expecting Goosen to make the shot and waiting for all “what happened” questions from reporters. But then, Goosen’s putt lipped out, giving Kelly life again and he left the media area.

Minutes later, though, fellow Madison resident Steve Stricker, also at 15-under, put himself in position to win with a birdie putt. Back down the steps to the media room came Kelly, expecting the guy he later called the best putter he’s been around to knock it in. But, like Goosen, Stricker couldn’t finish.

“(I) misread it a little bit. I didn’t think it was going to break as much as it did and it just snapped off at the end. I thought I hit a pretty good putt,” Stricker said. “But, yeah, a little disappointing when you get that opportunity to close it out and have about an eight- or 10-footer to do it, you want to make it and be done, but I didn’t.

“I mean, I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I hit a great shot in there and I had nothing to lose at that point. It’s mine to win. You want to capitalize on those.”

Kelly needed both men to miss relatively close putts and it happened.

“I wasn’t going to leave (the course), but I came (into the media room) and I sat down,” Kelly said. “I was sitting right here when Goosen missed, so I figured I better come back and sit down right here when Strick was putting just in case I had to talk with you guys again.

“I wasn’t going to walk out, but it was going to be probably pretty short, I’m guessing.”

All of the dramatics led to a three-way playoff. Stricker bogeyed the first playoff hole, leaving Goosen and Kelly. They each got pars on the second playoff hole before Kelly birdied the third for the win.

“I’m thankful I got that second chance when you’re the one who kind of fails and lets guys into it,” Kelly said. “Then you feel like you’ve got that second life. I didn’t feel like I needed to go to the range because I felt like I was still pretty jacked up from watching everything that was going on. Yeah, it was kind of surreal. It was fun.”

It was Kelly’s first win in the state of Wisconsin, his first win on the Champions Tour since Jan. 2018 and his fourth win overall. It also was his first win since his father passed away.

“The chills were flying up and down. It was pretty amazing,” Kelly said. “You know, my mom saying the sun came out, my dad was there. I haven’t won since my dad passed, so this was the first one and I was talking to him all the time. There were a lot of birdies coming up and chirping right next to me and I was like, ‘Hey, hey, Dad, how are you?’ It was kind of surreal.”

This was the fourth year of the tournament and every time the winner was not the leader coming into the final round.

“It really is truly awesome,” Kelly said. “You guys know what it’s about. It’s about friends and family, and to be able to do it in front of everybody…this is pretty sweet.”

Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly will have to come from behind to win American Family Insurance Championship

VERONA, Wis. — If Steve Stricker or Jerry Kelly are going to win their first tournament in the state of Wisconsin they’ll have to do it from behind.

The two Madison residents both trail leader Steve Flesch after two rounds of the American Family Insurance Championship, with Stricker a shot back at -10 and Kelly two off the lead at -9.

Flesch took sole possession of the lead with a birdie on the 18th hole, as he went 7-under for the day.

“I played very good the last two days actually. Hit a lot of good shots, had a lot of opportunities,” Flesch said. “So two good rounds. And it’s nice because I haven’t played particularly well here in my two previous showings.”

Everyone is chasing Flesch, including three golfers sitting a 10-under. Stricker is one of them after posting back-to-back rounds of 67. The highlight of day two came on the par-5 16th, when a perfect pitch nabbed him an eagle.

“I needed that,” Stricker said. “I’m in position to try to win this tomorrow and that’s a good feeling. There’s a lot of guys bunched up there, though. I imagine somebody’s going to come out of that pack with a good round, shoot a good round tomorrow, and that means that’s what I’m going to have to do if I want to have a chance to win.”

Kelly is also in position to win, though he probably should have been in the -10 grouping. Instead, he missed a short putt on the 17th hole that gave him his first bogey of the tournament.

“I had one bogey today. The problem is I only had three birdies,” Kelly said. “The one bogey is no big deal, but when you put it against three birdies, yeah, then it gets tougher.”

The good news for the two local favorites is that in the first three years of the tournament the person leading entering the final round hasn’t gone on to win it.

“Yeah, I sure hope so, because I’m behind,” Stricker said when asked if he hoped that held this year. “This course lends itself to some exciting finishes, I think. It’s kind of a shootout course. You have to play aggressively, there’s birdies to be made. There’s eagles you can make on some of these par 5s, they’re reachable, so a lot can happen in these closing holes. That’s what makes it exciting and fun to play here.”

Celebrity foursome at American Family Insurance Championship set

The American Family Insurance Championship is bringing one of the biggest names in golf history to Madison next month.

The tournament announced Tuesday that Jack Nicklaus will be a part of the celebrity foursome that will play a round on Saturday, June 22.

“It was great that he decided to do it,” said two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North said. “He’s the best that’s ever been.

“It’ll be great having him in town. He will try to show off the best he can.”

North, along with former Packers quarterback Brett Favre and country singing legend Tony Keith will round out the foursome.

“Our celebrity foursome has quickly become a major attraction, but Jack’s presence, along with Andy, Brett and Toby, will make it even more special for our fans,” said American Family Insurance Championship tournament director Nate Pokrass in a release. “You can be sure they’ll entertain the crowds, and help us raise even more money for charity. We’re honored and thrilled to have them.”

You can find more information about the celebrity foursome and the tournament here:

Steve Stricker wins major championship on Champions Tour

Steve Stricker has won a major championship.

The Madison resident shot a 4-under-par 68 Monday afternoon to take home the Regions Tradition title, one of the five majors on the Champions Tour.

“This is special,” said Stricker, who was clearly emotional after the win. “I was never able to win one of these on the regular tour. It means a lot.”

Stricker finished the tournament at 18-under, beating runners-up Billy Andrade, Paul Goydos and David Toms by six shots.

“You come out here hoping to play well and hoping to win. But it’s tough out here. These guys play well. I feel more pressure out here, at times, to perform than I do on the regular tour,” Stricker said. “It’s hard. To finally get this one, it means a lot.”

The win was Stricker’s fourth on the Champions Tour, which is reserved for players 50 years or older.

Stricker is now slated to play in the PGA Championship on the regular tour later this week at Bethpage Black in New York. He’s also expected back in Madison for the fourth year of the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge next month (June 15-23).