Courtesy of Wisconsin Golf Association
Bobbi Stricker was losing her patience. Then, she was losing the tournament. Putt after short putt kept sliding past the hole. After making everything she looked at in the first round of the Wisconsin Women’s Amateur Championship, the cup grew a lid in the final round Tuesday.
“Oh, my gosh, I had so many chances,” said Stricker, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin. “I don’t think I can even count them.”
Written in her DNA, however, is the putting touch passed down by her father, Steve Stricker, one of the best ever with the flat stick. It was no surprise, then, when Bobbi rolled in a clutch 6-footer for birdie on the par-5 17th hole at The Legend at Merrill Hills to draw even with Emily Lauterbach of Hartland.
The stunner came two holes later, on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, when Stricker’s sweeping 30-foot birdie putt, which she estimated broke eight feet, found the bottom of the cup for the victory.
“Oh my gosh, it broke a lot,” she said. “I’m really just trying to feel it in there. It was a bonus it went in.”
The putt broke the heart of Lauterbach, a rising junior at Wisconsin and Stricker’s teammate the last two years. Lauterbach had overcome a two-shot deficit at the start of the day and took the lead with three holes to go, but missed a short birdie putt on No. 15 that would have given her the two-shot cushion that, it turned out, she needed.
“I literally just yanked it,” Lauterbach said. “I missed a lot of short putts. So did she. We both fought to the end, that’s for sure. It was a rollercoaster.”
One day after making seven birdies and holing out from a fairway bunker for eagle in a 6-under 66, Stricker was in grind mode and closed with a 74. Lauterbach shot a 72 and the two tied at 4-under 140 in regulation, before Stricker won it on the first extra hole.
Abby Cavaiani of Dousman, a rising senior at Missouri State, shot a 74 and finished alone in third place at 3-over 147. Four players tied for fourth, 10 shots back, at 150: defending champion Taitum Beck of Waterford, Amy Kucera of Fontana, Ashley Kulka of Beaver Dam and Isabelle Maleki of Mequon. Beck and Kucera shot 72s, tied for low round of the day with Lauterbach. Kulka had a 73 and Maleki a 79.
Stricker got to enjoy the victory with her mother and caddie, Nicki, along with Steve, who caddied for Bobbi’s younger sister, Izzi (T-40), and watched the playoff.
“It means a lot,” Bobbi said. “I feel like I’ve been working really hard, so to see an outcome like this kind of feels like it pays off and it’s a nice little bonus this summer as I try to think about my next level of golf. It just adds a lot of confidence to what I’m doing.”
By unofficial count, Stricker and Lauterbach missed a combined 14 putts of 10 feet or shorter. Lauterbach did roll in a 35-footer for birdie on the fourth hole – a putt that would have gone at least 6 feet by if it hadn’t hit the middle of the cup – but three-putted from 20 feet on No. 12 for her only bogey of the tournament.
Other than a birdie on the par-5 fourth hole, little went right for Stricker over the first 16 holes. She bogeyed Nos. 3, 9, 12 and 15, kept missing putts and was clearly frustrated. It helped to have her mom at her side; Nicki has caddied off and on for Steve for years.
“She helped a ton,” Bobbi said. “I lost my cool a couple times out there and she’s really good at knowing what to say. It’s a level of comfort just having her there. I definitely lost my patience and she helped with the mindset of one shot at a time.”
Said Nicki, “I kept trying to get in her head: ‘We’re good, we’re good, we’re good. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’”
What Bobbi kept doing was missing putts. Trailing by one stroke after the bogey on 15, she hit a superb tee shot on the par-3 16th but failed to convert the 7-footer. It was her seventh miss from 10 feet or less. She went to the tee on the uphill par-5 17th desperately needing a birdie.
Stricker and Lauterbach both laid up short of a greenside bunker with their second shots. Stricker, hitting first, launched a delicate pitch over the bunker that rolled 6 feet past the hole. Lauterbach’s pitch barely got over the bunker, but she then hit a deft chip to within inches for a tap-in par.
Stricker settled over her birdie putt and rolled it into the heart.
“I knew I had to make it,” she said. “I left it in a good spot, too, where I could be aggressive. I found myself a lot today, with those 6-, 7-foot putts I had, I had to be like dainty with them. That one on 17, I knew I could be aggressive.”
Stricker had a chance to win it on the par-4 18th after hitting a wedge to 8 feet, but missed the putt. Lauterbach two-putted from 40-feet, knocking in a 3½-footer for par to force the playoff.
On the playoff hole, the par-4 No. 1, Lauterbach missed the green short with her approach but then chipped close. A second playoff hole seemed inevitable until Stricker’s 30-footer found the bottom.
“Yeah, it was a gut punch,” Lauterbach said. “That probably was the longest putt either one of us made today.”
Stricker has entered the Symetra Tour Qualifying Tournament in August but will remain an amateur until then and probably won’t turn pro unless she earns status on the LPGA’s developmental tour.
She’s on the alternate list for the Women’s Western Amateur next week at Park Ridge (Ill.) Country Club. If she doesn’t get in, her next tournament would be the Badger Mutual Insurance Women’s Amateur, July 26-27 at Brown Deer Park.
“Whatever happens, she’s good on just keep improving,” Nicki said. “If she can improve over the next two or three years like she has the last five, the sky’s the limit."
by Gary D'Amato, WisconsinGolf.com
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