HAVEN — Amid the most chaotic and pressure-filled week of her husband's life, Nicki Stricker saw a quiet confidence that told her Steve Stricker was the right man for the job of U.S. Ryder Cup captain at Whistling Straits.
"I think there was a calm," Nicki Stricker said Sunday amid the clamor of a wild victory celebration for Team USA after trouncing the Europeans 19-9 in the biennial matches that were delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don't think it was 'Oh, yeah, we got this.' I think it was (a matter of) if you put the players in position to perform, that's all you can do. At that point, it's up to them and that's why you play. On paper, yeah, we should have won, but you still have to go out there and play."
Steve Stricker let the players on his team just be themselves, whether they were chugging beers thrown at them by fans on the first tee while they were sitting out a Saturday session — this was Wisconsin, after all — or needling one another in the winner's news conference like restless brothers.
Afterward, Jordan Spieth spoke to the importance of Stricker giving him and the other 11 golfers on Team USA their space in the days leading up to the matches. Stricker and his five vice captains were seldom seen anywhere other than in the background until they joined the team in celebration Sunday.
"It felt like a player-friendly environment," Spieth said. "And as Steve mentioned on stage, there were no big speeches. It was: 'Hey, you guys take care of business today, go get your rest, take care of business tomorrow.' He knew this team was playing phenomenal golf coming into this event and put us in position to stay out of the way — is that fair, Strick? I don't want to take away from what the captains did. They did a lot of work setting this up ahead of time and then kind of taking the back seat and guys really took over.
"And we made a lot more putts than they did and there were a lot more roars."
Stricker, many believe, did the impossible. With 12 challenging personalities — some out-spoken, others reserved; some animated, others stoic — he brought them together as a reflection of himself.
"There's no ego there," Nicki Stricker said of her husband. "It's just him. It's real. He's not any different now than he was 20 years ago. I think guys see that. They know he's going to go to bat for them and they know the work he's put in and how important this was to him."
It was every bit as important to Nicki Stricker and daughters Bobbi and Izzi, who shared a special moment with the victorious captain after the U.S. had clinched the victory.
"I hugged him," said Bobbi Stricker, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where she played golf. "Both of us had tears. I told him I was super-proud of him. It was super-cool, and the way he's included us in the whole process has been awesome. Super-proud of him and my mom, too."
In the Stricker family, though, there is always another championship to chase and so is the case this week.
Izzi Stricker, a sophomore at Waunakee High School, is next on the tee. She and the Warriors — WIAA Division 1 state runners-up last fall — begin postseason play Wednesday with a regional at Portage Country Club.
"We will (celebrate) tonight with the team and then we'll go back home and (celebrate) low-key, like we always do," said Nicki Stricker, who knows her husband is also eager for some time to himself as his favorite time of the year approaches — hunting season. "He'll find his time and, again, we're excited for what's going to happen this fall and being there for Izzi."