Streelman's strong Chicago connection on full display at Olympia Fields
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Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour
Kevin Streelman was probably 4 years old the first time his dad took him to see a baseball game at Wrigley Field and he’s been a Chicago Cubs fan ever since. He’s never wavered, even in the lean times, which made the 2016 World Series title that ended a 108-year drought even more special.
He’s such a big fan, in fact, that seven or eight years ago, Streelman had to make a difficult decision on the eve of the BMW Championship. Well, on second thought, maybe it wasn’t that difficult.
“I got a call from my agent to throw out the first pitch,” Streelman recalls. “And as soon as he said that I got really excited.”
That is, until he found out he’d be taking the mound before a Chicago White Sox game.
“So, I declined an invite to throw out a first pitch -- which at Wrigley would be an absolute dream come true,” Streelman says. “But I just couldn't do it. I couldn't do my first one down in the South Side.”
When he was a kid, Streelman’s favorite player was second baseman Ryne Sandberg, although he also liked watching Mark Grace, who played first, and shortstop Shawon Dunston. In more recent years, Streelman, who now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, has gotten to know a new generation of Cubs, whose spring training home, Sloan Park, is about 20 minutes away in Mesa.
So, the 41-year-old Streelman, who grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, about 25 miles west of Chicago, now showcases his love for the Cubs with their logo on his golf bag, which features signatures by members of this year’s team in gold-colored ink. One of his buddies, Chicago pitcher Jon Lester, took it to spring training – pre-quarantine -- to collect the various John Hancocks.
Streelman and one of his buddies have always gone to see the Cubs play on the Opening Day of spring training. This year for the first time, he took his son Rhett – “Just kind of passing down the tradition,” Streelman says – and Lester gave him the bag. To make the day even better, Chicago beat Oakland 12-2.
“I’ve always been a Cubbies fan and will be until the day I die,” Streelman says.
And the Cubs feel the same about the PGA TOUR veteran. Streelman has been playing very well this year, entering the BMW Championship ranked 28th in the FedExCup, and the team loves it when he gets on TV like he did during the third round of the Workday Charity Open.
“Jon sent me video -- a bunch of the guys were watching the Saturday round,” says Streelman, who was playing with the eventual champ Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas that day. “And ... they're hooting and hollering because they saw the bag on the coverage.
“They showed it on the first tee when I was teeing off. That was kind of cool.”
When the Cubs aren’t playing baseball during spring training, Streelman says you can usually find them on the golf course. He’s played a lot of golf with Lester and Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo at some of the area’s finest courses like TPC Scottsdale, Whisper Rock and Silverleaf.
Happ is the best of the lot, according to Streelman. Happ’s father, Keith, who died of brain cancer in 2015, was a scratch golfer and worked as an agronomist for the USGA.
“Ian grew up at a golf course and he takes it seriously,” Streelman says. “It's really funny if you give him a hard time because he always wears pants. So, like even when it's hot out, we're all wearing shorts and he's like trying to be all professional. Like, dude, you're not a professional golfer. ...
“He can shoot the 60s, so he doesn't get too many shots from me.”
The Cubs are on a 10-day road trip, so Streelman won’t get to take a break in his preparations for the BMW Championship and head over to Wrigley Field. But he has the MLB package and watches all the games – which has been a good distraction since he’s had to spend so much time away from home during the PGA TOUR’s compressed schedule after the COVID-19 break.
“It stinks being away from my family,” Streelman says. “This is the most I've been away from them in my career. ... So, I'll grab dinner and FaceTime the kids, throw the game on and kind of go back and forth between FaceTime with the family and watching the games.
“It's just kind of a nice reprieve when I'm on the road.”
The Cubs are playing well, as is Streelman, who’s had two runner-up finishes this year. As of Monday night, Chicago leads the National League’s Central Division with an 18-10 record.
“I text the guys if they're doing well and leave them alone when they're not -- kind of like they do with my golf game,” Streelman says. “So, it's just fun. It's a sprint to the finish with only 60 games, but the Cubs got off to a great start and are looking promising going forward.”
So promising, that the two-time PGA TOUR champion might have a dilemma. His original plan was to auction the golf bag off for charity, but he’s become attached.
“I love it so much,” he says. “I kind of want to keep it for myself. Maybe I'll just pay myself and give it to charity. Especially if they win the World Series. I don't think I can give it away then.”
Streelman enters the second event of the FedExCup Playoffs ranked 28th and trying to hold onto a spot in the top 30 so he can play at East Lake in Atlanta next week where the $15 million bonus is awarded. He estimates he’ll need a top 25 finish or so at Olympia Fields on Sunday, and he likes the challenge.
“I know I need to focus and if I play well enough, I make it,” Streelman says. “And if I don't, I don't. Like I'm okay with either result. I've had a great year and I’m proud of the season. To get to East Lake would obviously be the icing on the cake, but I need to play well to get there.
“And I would love to do it in my hometown, so I'm going to do my best.”