HARTFORD, Conn. – Suzy Whaley was back in the spotlight this week.
The Cromwell resident and first female president of the PGA of America helped preside over the press conference that officially named Steve Stricker the captain of the 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Stricker’s selection had been seriously rumored for months, but the appointment was still emotional for the Wisconsin native who will be leading the American side at Whistling Straits in Kohler, an hour north of Milwaukee where Stricker was introduced Wednesday. Stricker grew up with Jerry Kelly, a University of Hartford grad who is now on the PGA Tour Champions with his longtime buddy and frequent partner in team events.
Not surprisingly, Stricker had to choke back tears before he got through the first sentence of his acceptance speech. After all, Stricker wept after each of his 12 victories on the PGA Tour, so being introduced in his home state as a Ryder Cup captain was especially meaningful.
”I’m an emotional guy. I’m truly humbled,” said Stricker, who learned of his selection from Whaley in December. ”I’m very passionate about this competition. We want to win this more than ever. I want to help any way I can.”
Stricker didn’t make his first Ryder Cup team until he was 41 in the 2008 matches at Valhalla, Spain, a rare U.S. victory, and then played in two more. He spent the next six years in the back room as an assistant captain to Tom Watson, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk, and he was captain of the victorious U.S. team in the 2017 Presidents Cup.
Stricker’s name was first mentioned as a Ryder Cup captain five years ago, but he never took a possible choice for granted, even though the previous 28 captains had never won a major championship.
”I was thinking they’re not going to have me. I haven’t won a major,” Stricker said. ”But it kept going further along, me putting in the time last year, the Presidents Cup a couple of years ago, and the PGA of America and Ryder Cup committees saying they wanted to move off from that.”
Tiger Woods, a vice captain at the past two Ryder Cups because of injuries, was among three players on the selection committee and said Stricker was a unanimous choice.
”Everyone knows he’s such a nice guy, but beneath all of that exterior is this fieriness and this competitiveness, and he’s also one of the more detail-oriented guys that we know,” Woods said. ”I think that he’ll be prepared, he’ll be understanding and he’s very good at communicating with the players and getting their opinions but also putting his foot down when he has to.”
A week before Whaley announced Stricker’s appointment, she was named captain of the U.S. team in the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup, a team competition for women PGA members from around the world that will be played Oct. 22-26 at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas. Whaley, 51, was also the first female elected a PGA officer in 2014, which was 11 years after she was the first woman in 58 years to play in a PGA Tour event, the Greater Hartford Open (now Travelers Championship) at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. She qualified for that tournament when she became the first female to win an individual PGA of America event, the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA Championship.
“Steve Stricker’s career has long established a place of prominence in American golf,” said Whaley, who was on the Ryder Cup selection committee. “Yet, he’s as relevant as ever — as evidenced by three wins last year on the PGA Tour Champions — and he has a wonderful ability to connect with players of all ages. Steve’s vision for his captaincy is laser focused, and we are elated to have this hometown favorite as our U.S. Ryder Cup captain for 2020 at Whistling Straits.”
When Whaley’s two-year tenure as PGA of America president ended in 2020, she and the Connecticut Section PGA will host the organization’s annual meeting in October in Hartford. Whaley is currently recognized by Golf for Women as a top 50 female instructor and is a Board Member and Advisor for numerous organizations, including Golfer Girl Magazine. She is an LPGA Teaching and Club Professional (T&CP) member who played on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993.
Stricker, also 51, played on two victorious Ryder Cup teams in 2008 and 2016 and on five Presidents Cup teams.
“In our sport, in this country, there is no greater honor than to captain the United States Ryder Cup Team,” said Stricker, who was inducted into the Wisconsin State Golf Association Hall of Fame in December 2007. “I am humbled by both the opportunity at hand and the responsibility that comes with the position. I’d like to thank the PGA Ryder Cup Committee for their belief in me.
“While we were disappointed with the result in Paris, I am confident the setback will fuel our preparations for what will take place at Whistling Straits. Europe’s talent will present a great challenge, but we will be focused on what we can accomplish together in 2020 in my home state, in front of a loyal legion of sports fans in Wisconsin. It’s going to be a memorable week.”
In his first act as Ryder Cup captain, Stricker named Furyk as the first of his Vice Captains. Furyk served as U.S. Captain in 2018 and played in nine Ryder Cups. Padraig Harrington, 47, of Ireland was named 2020 European Ryder Cup Captain last month.
Besides Stricker’s appointment, Whaley also announced changes in the timetable for qualifying and being a captain’s pick.
All U.S. players will have the opportunity to earn Ryder Cup points beginning with this week’s World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship and concluding immediately after the second FedEx Cup playoff event (BMW Championship) on Aug. 23, 2020.
Players will receive one point per $1,000 earned in the four major championships (Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, British Open), one point per $2,000 earned in the WGC-Mexico Championship; WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship; The Players Championship; WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and WGC-HSBC Champions; one point per $1,000 earned in 2002 regular PGA Tour events from Jan. 1 through Aug. 23, 2020, including the Zurich Classic of New Orleans team event and WGC events. In the 2002 majors, players will receive two points per $1,000 for the winner and 1.5 points per $1,000 earned for all others to make the cut.
The top eight points leaders through Aug. 23, 2020 will secure an automatic spot on the team, while the four remaining slots will be Stricker’s selections and announced on Sept. 1 immediately following the season-ending Tour Championship.