PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Steve Stricker's brother-in-law set to make debut
June 09, 2021
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- June 09, 2021
- Mario Tiziani caddying for his brother-in-law Steve Stricker during the final round of the Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Mario Tiziani has been in the final group on Sunday at many a golf tournament.
He has seen dozens of pressure situations. He has stood on tee boxes staring down narrow fairways. He has read slick, undulating greens. He has seen bad lies and horrible bounces but also amazing chips and perfect putts.
The thing is he hasn't been the one holding a club in his hands. Tiziani is Steve Stricker's sometime caddie, when his sister, Nicki, Steve's wife of 28 years, is unavailable
But Tiziani, 50, will be pulling his own clubs and making his own decisions come Friday at the PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship. Turns out the tournament host and hierarchy at te AmFam have extended Stricker’s 50-year-old brother-in-law a sponsor's exemption to make his Champions Tour debut.
"Steve and I talked about it, and Nate (Pokrass), the tournament director, mentioned it," Tiziani said. "I never knew if it was serious or just chatter. Once I read through the lines that it was a serious conversation ... Several years ago there was zero chance I thought I’d be playing golf. It just wasn’t on my radar. I hadn’t competed in a decade. It was not something I thought about.
"But when you turn 50 ... and my game was there somewhat. My game didn’t disappear. So I figured maybe if I put a little work I can be competitive. Over a stretch of time I had it in the back of my mind and it became more of a reality and became something I might do."
Tiziani does have plenty of game. He played for his father, Dennis, at the University of Wisconsin. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1989. He won the Wisconsin State Open in 2002. He made it through Q school and played 23 events on the PGA TOUR in 2005, making 11 cuts.
But as he admitted, it has been a while since he played competitively. After failing to hang onto his TOUR card, Tiziani toiled on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour for two years before joining MCG Sports, a sports agency firm where he serves as Stricker’s agent, which is a big job when your client is successful on two tours and is captain of the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup.Mario Tiziani in 2006 at the BMW Charity Pro-Am. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
He really doesn’t know what to expect out of his golf game this weekend. Tiziani played a practice round on Tuesday afternoon with Stricker, Scott Verplank and Mike Small, the golf coach at the University of Illinois and a college teammate of Stricker’s with the Illini.
“I don’t know that I even know the value that Steve has had on my golf game just because it has been 30 years,” Tiziani said. “We’ve played so much golf together and prepared for tournaments so much. I’ve seen him and the way he approaches the game. He’s one of the best players to ever play the game honestly, with 12 wins on the PGA TOUR.
“It’s super valuable, just the way he works on what is important and his vision of how to play courses. We have a mutual respect on how we approach things and see things. Whether it’s the golf swing or a golf course. It has been pretty awesome for me having him around on how to approach the game. It’s been paramount for me.”
It will be interesting to see what happens when the caddie becomes the player. Tiziani certainly has put himself in a pressure-packed situation, playing in front of so many family and friends at home in Wisconsin at the tournament hosted by Stricker. There will be no flying under the radar.
“It’s as much pressure as I can put on myself,” Tiziani said. “It’s up to me to have tunnel vision and do the best I can on every shot. I think if it comes down to it, in the heat of the battle, I think I’ll be fine. But until I get out there I won’t really know.
“For sure it’s exciting to play at home, but I’ve got other duties -- day-to-day stuff for Steve and his obligations and I’ve got another call after this with my work. That’s challenging. But yeah, if was in Naples and nobody knew who I was maybe I’d be hidden down that scoreboard a little bit. But if I can handle this here I can handle it anywhere.”