Approaching 50, golfer Steve Stricker is busier than ever

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Steve Stricker gets busier as he gets older.

One of the PGA Tour's most respected players will be a vice captain for the U.S. team under Davis Love III at the Ryder Cup this year at Hazeltine. He'll be the captain for the U.S. squad for the Presidents Cup in 2017 at Liberty National.

Stricker is also getting ready to host his own tournament, the inaugural Champions Tour stop in Madison sponsored by American Family Insurance in late June. And Stricker isn't even eligible to play in his own event until he turns 50 next year.

So much for taking life a little easier as he approaches a milestone birthday.

''Yeah I seemed to have retired from golf about three years ago, but I've gotten more busy the last three years,'' Stricker said with a smile on Tuesday at media day for his tournament at the University Ridge course.

Oh, he's still playing on the regular tour, too.

The 12-time winner will try to qualify for the U.S. Open next week in Memphis, then plans to stay in town to play the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind.

''It's pretty good, actually,'' Stricker said in describing his game. ''I don't score like I used to, but I'm hitting the ball pretty nicely.''

If he doesn't qualify for the Open in a few weeks at Oakmont, he'll come home to Wisconsin. There's plenty enough to do.

The American Family Insurance Championship is important to Stricker for several reasons.

The tournament grew out of ideas to find ways to raise money for Stricker's foundation. A prominent Wisconsin native on the Tour, Stricker was also among a group of leading golf names in the state who were trying to bring a regular PGA stop back to Wisconsin.

The last regular date was a tournament in Milwaukee that ended in 2009 following a 42-year run.

''It's been a long time since we had an event here that we've played year after year after year, and that's what makes it so special,'' said Wisconsin native Andy North, a TV analyst and two-time U.S. Open winner. ''Steve has worked so hard to get it to this point.''

The PGA Championship returned to Whistling Straits last year. Stricker's tournament starts on June 24. The U.S. Open comes to Erin Hills next year, while the Ryder Cup will be held at Whistling Straits in 2020.

''Golf in Wisconsin is energized. It's a good time to ride the wave,'' said Nate Pokrass, American Family Insurance Championship tournament director.

The involvement of Stricker, one of golf's ''nice guys,'' gives the tourney added respectability. Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman and Jay Haas are among the players committed to playing in what is shaping up to be a prominent field.

As for his own future on the links, Stricker said he plans to play about five more times this season. He'll try to play on the regular tour more next year, especially closer to the selection process for the Presidents Cup team. Stricker also plans to start playing the Champions Tour next year, when he should be a top contender.

Carving out time for family remains a top priority, too. He treasures the three months in the offseason when he can go hunting and fishing.

''It seems like I've got so many things going on, all good things. Family time is up there,'' Stricker said. ''So that's the important stuff. Golf has taken a back seat, which is fine with me for a while. But I still enjoy going out there and competing.''

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