MADISON (WKOW) — Steve Stricker led Team USA to a Ryder Cup win last September. But just a month later, “Captain America” was thrown out of joint by a serious health shock.
“I thought I was pretty invincible when it came to health, but you know, that showed otherwise,” said pro golfer Steve Stricker.
A mysterious heart and liver problem led to two separate hospitalizations.
“They really didn’t have any answers for me,” Stricker said. “I think that was a scary part.”
Stricker had an irregular heart rate, an elevated white blood cell count, and a declining liver count. He was taking medication for myocarditis, which left him with no appetite. He lost 25 pounds.
“Nobody knows why I got that,” Stricker said. “It could have just been a virus, could have been a reaction to the vaccine. Nobody really knows. You can’t tell me one way or the other.”
The doctors were able to rule out the big things, and soon there was hope.
“There was a procedure he had and things started to improve,” said Steve’s wife, Nicki Stricker. “I think we’ve seen that a bit over and over again. It was about coming home and that’s behind us, you know, what do we have to do to get back to where you were and we’ve even talked better. “
Stricker was vacationing with his family in Florida. Despite the circumstances, the Stricker family enjoyed the good times.
“We had a lot of one-on-one golf lessons, which was nice, like lessons every day,” said Steve’s youngest daughter, Izzy Stricker. “Because he couldn’t play, he was more focused on us and my mother. It was great fun.”
It was only a matter of time before Steve would swing back.
I want to thank everyone for all the love and well wishes I received today! It’s been a tough road for a while, but I’m definitely getting better. I still have a long way to go but I’m looking forward to coming back after that if I get the ok! pic.twitter.com/iLotjmI3h8
— Steve Stricker (@stevestricker) January 8, 2022
“In January, it felt like I had a long way to go, but you know, looking back, it was a nice development,” Stricker said.
“I think we were honestly more fire for him than wanting him to come back because I don’t know, it’s just fun to see him doing what he loves,” Izzy said.
He felt strong enough to compete in three consecutive PGA Tour Champions tournaments through May.
“Going into those three weeks I really didn’t know, I didn’t know if I could do it, you know, and I hadn’t run, played 18 holes, I didn’t do any of that sort of thing,” Stricker said. “So it was just a way of seeing where my game is, seeing where my health is, and going from there. But deep down, I wanted to be competitive.”
And he was. In his first tournament back, Stricker finished in second place.
“I don’t want to say I wasn’t surprised, but somehow I wasn’t into what he did,” Nicki said.
Most recently, at Regions Tradition, he confidently led on the last day.
“We kind of freaked out,” said Steve’s oldest daughter, Bobbi Stricker. “There was almost a feeling like he was going to do it. This piece that is inexplicable.”
That gut feeling was confirmed as Stricker won the tournament by six shots and made a triumphant comeback.
— RegionsTradition (@RegionsTrad) May 15, 2022
He did all this with his wife Nicki as his caddy at his side.
“She’s my biggest supporter, right,” Stricker said. “So it’s reassuring to have it there on your bag. She knows me like no other.”
Now the Strickers begin this next chapter with a fresh perspective.
“It’s golf,” said Steve. “I’m 55. I’ve had a good career. You know, it’s kind of the cherry on top, this Champions Tour, and just go out there and have fun with it and see what I’m up to and try to play well. “
“Don’t get me wrong, I want to be out there playing well. But you know, is it really that big of a deal where we were in November?
The Strickers have always been close, but now family means more than ever.
“You think your parents are invincible and you think they’re in the best of health, you know, like nothing could happen to them, but things can turn very quickly and you have to literally cherish every single moment,” Bobbi said.
Steve and Nicki said they at least hoped he would be back at the American Family Insurance Championship being held June 10-12 at University Ridge Golf Course. Stricker is very grateful to be a player/host at the event this year.
“It’s a lot bigger than you think playing the game or anything else,” Stricker said. “It was more enjoyable and rewarding to be a part of this tournament and to be able to give back to the community like we did. So that’s what we’re reminded of every year at AmFam time.”
Stricker’s year of ups and downs continued as he recently tweeted that he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to withdraw from the Senior PGA Championship.
“Just a minor setback and I’m looking forward to returning after that when I’m feeling strong again!”
Super depressed that I tested positive for Covid on Friday and have to retire @seniorpgachamp in this week! Just a minor setback and I look forward to going back after that when I’m feeling strong again! Good luck to the players, especially my brother-in-law @MarioTiziani
— Steve Stricker (@stevestricker) May 24, 2022