Gary Van Sickle, known as Vans to colleagues and as Van Cynical to some of his Mailbag readers online, is a scratch golfer. He's had seven holes in one, once played in U.S. Open sectional qualifying with PGA Tour players Larry Mize and Tom Purtzer (and missed the Open by a scant 17 shots), is a former club champ at Yale University Golf Club and at Treesdale G&CC (Gibsonia, Pa.) and has a career low of 62. He has made one appearance in the U.S. Senior Amateur so far.
Van Sickle, a 1976 University of Wisconsin graduate with a bachelor's degree in journalism, has been all golf since 1989, when he ended 12 years with The Milwaukee Journal—where he covered golf, Badger football and basketball and the Packers and was voted Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year—to move to Golf World magazine, where better locker rooms and warmer weather beckoned.
At Sports Illustrated, where he has worked since October 1996, Van Sickle has focused on golf for SI and Golf Magazine and regularly contributes to Golf.com. The move to SI enabled him to relocate from Milford, Conn., to Wexford, Pa., in the north hills of Pittsburgh. The FAQ about the move involved his wife, Betsy, a Pittsburgh-area native. The conversation went like this: "If we're going to move, why don't we move somewhere warm," Gary asked. Rebutted Betsy, "You're somewhere warm every weekend." Reply: "Pittsburgh it is!"
Do not ask where he's from. It's complicated. He was born in Midland, Mich., moved at age two to Lake Jackson, Texas, moved to Findlay, Ohio, three years later and then back to Midland for eight years, then finished high school in Waupaca, Wis. He has won numerous Golf Writers Association of America and International Network of Golf honors, has been included in Best Sports Stories and was awarded UPI's Wisconsin Sports Story of the Year for a 25th anniversary look back at the Badgers' 1963 Rose Bowl team.
His son, Mike, was a first team All-American golfer at Marquette University in '09, won the prestigious Byron Nelson Award, is a two-time Pennsylvania Open champion and is pursuing professional golf.
Gary's most memorable SI moment was the arrival of his first business cards, which came with his title listed as Senior Waiter instead of Senior Writer. He used the cards anyway and is still known as Senior Waiter in some circles. Ask him about today's specials….