Steve Stricker got emotional when speaking about his friend Jack Salzwedel, the outgoing CEO of American Family Insurance.
Stricker paused to hold back tears after sharing how Salzwedel was instrumental in bringing to life the American Family Insurance Championship, the PGA Tour Champions tournament Stricker player-hosts.
“(Our relationship) has meant everything,” Stricker said. “He’s been there, unbelievable supporter of the event. When I come float an idea by he’s all-in … he’s a good friend.”
Officials from AmFam, the PGA Tour Champions and Stricker gathered Wednesday afternoon to announce the tournament was extended as a PGA Tour Champions event through 2027, and that University Ridge Golf Course would continue being its site. The seven-year extension begins with this year’s event, which runs Friday-Sunday.
The original agreement between AmFam and the PGA Tour Champions was set to expire this year, but representatives from the tournament and the tour said an extension was essentially a done deal early last year, but when last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19, the group delayed an announcement.
Officials from both sides said they're confident the tournament will continue growing and another extension beyond 2027 will occur.
Salzwedel said keeping the tournament at University Ridge, which is owned by the University of Wisconsin, was important to him because of American Family Insurance’s deep ties with UW. Stricker said the groundskeeping crew has steadily improved over the five years the tournament has been played there and this year was the best the course has looked yet.
The tournament has raised more than $10.2 million for local charities through the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation. An estimate from 2019 said the tournament brought about $15 million to the local economy.
Stricker said the tournament’s focus will continue to be raising money for those charitable causes and to put on the best Champions Tour event possible.
“This was a dream of mine and (Salzwedel’s) quite a few years ago,” Stricker said. “We’ve been blessed to have unbelievable support from the community, the fans, the sponsors … (this extension) takes me to my 60th birthday — hopefully I’m still playing by then.”