2022 U.S. Junior Girls | Izzi Stricker, Madison

Izzi Stricker, Waunakee

To understand why, in the end, Izzi Stricker felt so comfortable staying close to home and playing her college golf at the University of Wisconsin once she graduates from Waunakee High School in May of 2024, if not sooner, really requires a peek behind the curtain of her stay at IMG Academy in Florida.

It came last January during a tumultuous time in the Stricker family. Her father, Steve, was on the road to recovery from a serious illness that would keep the veteran PGA Tour golfer and 2021 U.S. Ryder Cup captain out of action on the PGA Tour Champions until early May and, during a time for reflection at a winter rental in Florida, Izzi pondered going away from home for school. 

"She tried that IMG Academy and she lasted nine days," Steve Stricker said recently. "She was like, 'I love being around home and Madison.'"

For her part, Izzi Stricker not only appreciated her family giving her the chance to explore IMG, but also for supporting her decision to leave. She then made the most of it, practicing with her dad as he worked his way back into form and  working with both a mental coach and physical trainer to, in her words, "work on things outside of my golf game."

Over the next eight-plus months, Stricker put in the work that led to her ending the season with a come-from-behind victory at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament. She also helped the Warriors finish fifth. Those feats told Stricker that her decision to leave IMG and eventually return to her friends and teammates in Waunakee was a good one.

"It took a lot of experimenting for me to realize what worked and what didn't," she wrote in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf. "I was lucky enough to try IMG and realize it wasn't a good fit for me. ... I learned from my dad's professional career that the way he gets the best out of himself isn't the same way I get the best out of myself."

In this case, her WIAA state championship helped get her a chance to go to college in her hometown.

Stricker took her official visit to UW on Nov. 2. She gave Badgers coach Todd Oehrlein her commitment in a phone call Nov. 15, becoming the first golfer in Wisconsin's decorated Class of 2024 to make her college decision known.

In doing so, Stricker become the third member of her family to play golf at UW, joining her mother, the former Nicki Tiziani, and sister Bobbi. Her grandfather, Dennis Tiziani, coached the Badgers women's team from 1989 to 2003.  

"I sort of always knew I wanted to go to Wisconsin so I didn't have any other schools in mind," Stricker wrote. "It's always been a dream to follow my mom and sister's footsteps and go to Wisconsin and I've always loved attending the football and basketball games as a kid. The university feels like home, and I could never imagine myself anywhere else.

"I made the call to Coach Oehrlein, telling him I'd love to be a Badger. I was really appreciative that he committed to me really early, and I wanted to do the same."

Stricker was second in the recently released Wisconsin.Golf girls Class of 2024 state rankings behind Hartland's Jessica Guiser, who has attended IMG since winning the WIAA Division 1 state title as a freshman at Arrowhead (Hartland) in 2019. This past summer, Stricker finished fifth at the Sherri Steinhauer (74-74) and the U.S. Girls Junior Championship qualifying (75) and T-9 at the Wisconsin PGA Junior Championship (76-78) before winning WIAA regional and sectional titles en route to University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, where she shot 73-70 on her future collegiate home course and rallied from four shots behind Westosha Central junior Kylie Walker on the final day to win by two strokes.

While sister Bobbi — a four-time WIAA Division 1 state qualifier in tennis during high school — didn't start playing golf competitively until she got to UW in 2016, Izzi Stricker played her first WPGA Junior Tour event at the end of the 2018 season and won her second start to open the 2019 season with a 72 at Lake Ripley CC in Cambridge.

Izzi Stricker, a first-team Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin all-state pick and a GCAW academic all-state honoree, will give UW an in-state recruit for the second consecutive recruiting cycle. Two-time defending WIAA Division 2 state champion Ava Salay of Prescott has signed her National Letter of Intent to play for the Badgers as part of their 2023 recruiting class along with Kate Brody, a two-time Michigan Division 1 state champion from Grand Blanc, Mich.

"Knowing those two girls also helped me make my decision because they are both great people and golfers," wrote Stricker, who is considering Law or Psychology as possible majors. "I see Wisconsin athletics as a big community and another family. Growing up in Wisconsin, I take a lot of pride in Wisconsin athletics and being able to wear the 'W' for my four years of college. I believe that it's a great honor to be a Badger and play for my state.

"I'm just really excited to get there, work really hard and be a good teammate."

How excited? She and her dad are looking forward to working together again after the holidays so she can continue the improvements she made between her sophomore and junior seasons at Waunakee.

"She's excited to work hard," Steve Stricker told Wisconsin.Golf. "She'll come down to Florida with us after the start of the year and do school remotely so she can start working on her game again. She may even be able to graduate early. She's looking into that, so she can kind of keep working on her game leading up to going to school at Wisconsin."

Wisconsin.Golf's Gary D'Amato contributed to this report.

Girls Class of 2024

No. First name Last name High school College Nov.
2021
Nov.
2020
1, Jessica Guiser Hartland (IMG Academy) Florida 1 1
2, Izzi Stricker Waunakee Wisconsin 6 7
3, Kylie Walker Westosha Central 3 5
4, Madison Haugen Brookfield East 6 4
5, Katelyn Walker Westosha Central 4 8
6, Mya Nicholson Janesville Craig Northern Iowa (basketball) 5 3
7, Treva Dodd Brookfield (IMG Academy) 2 2
8, Vivian Cressman Middleton 9 10
9, Lauren Lupinek Oconomowoc Western Michigan 15 NR
10, Adalyn Johnston Bay Port 6 5
11, Jordan Shipshock Waunakee 11 9
12, Ellen Close Middleton 20 NR
13, Payton Schmidt Jefferson 10 12
14, Brianna Kirsch Lancaster 11 11
15, Ava Pesha Somerset 17 NR
16, Lexi Manteufel Union Grove NR NR
17, Sarah Ramsden Beloit Memorial 13 NR
tie, Kate Krueger Divine Savior Holy Angels (Milwaukee) 14 13
19, Chloe Brown Westosha Central 16 NR
20, Norah Berken Kaukauna NR NR
21, Ava Beranek Bay Port 19 NR
22, Olivia Grothaus Hudson NR NR
23, Ava Frederiksen Stevens Point 23 15
24, Kadyn Peery The Prairie School (Racine) 22 14
25, Jenna Schumacher Kimberly 18 NR
26, Mahlia McCane River Falls 25 NR
27, Drew Hoffer Oregon 24 NR
28, Lia Maxwell Hartland NR NR
29, Alyson Reier Hayward NR NR
30, Ella Fager Mount Horeb NR NR
31, Riley Wood Green Bay Preble co-op NR NR
32, Sophia Baek Notre Dame (Green Bay) NR NR
33, Vivian Ninham Pulaski NR NR
34, Bethany Vidruk Milton NR NR
35, Georgia Volley Waunakee NR NR
36, Lucy Nielsen Fond du Lac NR NR
37, Krista Longden Pewaukee NR NR
38, Payton Morton Wilmot NR NR
39, Madison Engebose Cedarburg NR NR
40, Michelle Wallin Ladysmith NR NR

rob@killarneygolfmedia.com

Rob started covering the state's golf scene in 1987 at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison. He joined Killarney Golf Media in 2015 and helped develop Wisconsin.Golf's extensive coverage of junior, high school, college, amateur and pro golf.