Steve Stricker wins the TOC (Eric Risberg/AP) If you don’t know Steve Stricker, you should. He is in my opinion the consummate example of what a professional athlete should be all about. Sports these days seem to be dominated by egocentric, money-hungry individuals who care mostly about themselves and their notoriety. You see it […]

 
Steve Stricker wins the TOC (Eric Risberg/AP)

If you don’t know Steve Stricker, you should. He is in my opinion the consummate example of what a professional athlete should be all about.

Sports these days seem to be dominated by egocentric, money-hungry individuals who care mostly about themselves and their notoriety. You see it time and again, over and over, and it gets old. There are refreshing exceptions, however, notably people like the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and former Milwaukee Buck Ray Allen.

And Wisconsin’s Steve Stricker, a professional golfer who just might be the nicest guy of all. Steve is currently the number one ranked American in golf, and proved it by winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui yesterday.

This was his 12th victory overall on the PGA Tour, his ninth since he turned 40 (he’ll be 45 next month) and his eighth in his last 50 tournaments. During that time, no one, not even Tiger, has won more. Steve has played in two Ryder Cups, three President’s Cups and has won over $30 million in his career. Pretty heady stuff.

There is much to like about Stricker’s success. He’s from Edgerton and still lives in Madison with his family. Most of the PGA Tour pros live in Florida or Arizona or California now, but Steve wants to be near family and friends. And his roots.

You like Steve Stricker because he is the real deal, a humble, caring man who genuinely realizes how blessed he is to have reached this level of success.

You like Steve Stricker because he’s not full of himself – he cares more about his family and friends than he does his own fame.

You like Steve Stricker because he is total class, on and off the course, and is universally liked and respected by his fellow Tour pros.

You like Steve Stricker because he’ll talk to you, as he did once a decade ago when he was on the putting green at TPC Tampa Bay, minding his own business. An annoying fan approached and said hello. He stopped, looked me right in the eye and said “Hey, how’s it going?” He shook my hand and actually asked me where I was from.

You like Steve Stricker because of his work ethic. After ascending near the stop of the sport in 2001, his game and his confidence left him and he had to scratch and claw his way back. After winning his third tournament, he changed clubs, and his game went so far south that he missed earning his TOUR card in 2005. It’s now legend that he rediscovered his game hitting balls out of a trailer in the December snow on the practice range at Cherokee CC in Madison. You really have to like that.

And now he’s the PGA Tour’s Champion of Champions, having held off an array of quality challengers yesterday to win by three strokes.

“It was tough,” said Stricker, who finished at 23-under par 269 with all four rounds in the 60s. “I never let up today. It’s always tough trying to win, and it’s even more tough when you have a lead like I did. I’m very proud of what I did today.

“And it’s always cool to get a hug from your family walking off at the end.”

And it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Follow me on twitter: @jpalmer7890

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