Ernie Els. Jim Furyk. Mike Weir. Alex Cejka.
They hadn't turned 50 and weren't eligible for PGA Tour Champions in 2019, the last time the American Family Insurance Championship was held at University Ridge Golf Course. They have since become four of the biggest names on the senior circuit and next week will find out what all the fuss is about with one of the PGA Tour Champions' most popular stops, officials announced Friday in revealing the 81-player field for this year's event.
Els and Weir were among the late additions to the field ahead of the Friday deadline to commit to the AmFam Championship, which will be played next Friday through Sunday at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, along with 2017 champion Fred Couples. They join tournament host Steve Stricker and defending champion Jerry Kelly, both of Madison, and a host of over-50 golf legends to give the 4-year-old tournament one of its strongest fields.
Els, Furyk, Weir and Cejka, who has won the first two PGA Tour Champions majors of 2021, join Cam Beckman, Doug Barron and Robert Karlsson as those who have turned 50 since the 2019 AmFam Championship. The 2020 tournament was not held due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"The American Family Insurance Championship is back, and we’re primed for another competitive and compelling tournament,” tournament director Nate Pokrass said in a statement. "We have a field filled with legends of the game and players from across the world, representing 15 countries. And, we have three of the most accomplished PGA Tour players in Wisconsin history in our player-host Steve Stricker, defending champion Jerry Kelly and Andy North.”
The final field included five Wisconsin natives in Stricker; Kelly; North, the two-time U.S. Open champion from Madison; Mario Tiziani, a former Madison East and University of Wisconsin golfer who played on the PGA Tour and what is now the Korn Ferry Tour; and Fox Point native Skip Kendall. Tiziani, who won this week's Minnesota State Senior Open, and Kendall are among 12 sponsor's exemptions awarded thanks to the AmFam's elevation to invitational status, joining the likes of former Major League Baseball pitcher John Smoltz, University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small and former Greater Milwaukee Open champions Carlos Francos and Gary Hallberg.
Kelly, who joins former champions Scott McCarron (2018), Couples and Kirk Triplett (2016) in the field, is also among 12 golfers who have posted victories during the PGA Tour Champions' 2020-21 wrap-around season, joining Shane Bertsch, Cejka (two), Els (two), Furyk (two), Miguel Angel Jimenz (two), Charles Schwab Cup standings front-runner Bernhard Langer, Scott Parel, Dickie Pride, Brett Quigley, Stricker and Weir. Darren Clarke, who previously had committed to the tournament, has withdrawn, but officials announced that Jesper Parnevik, who missed the first four AmFam Championships due to a family conflict, was also announced among the first-time commitments.
Els was arguably the biggest name to join the AmFam Field ahead of the entry deadline.
Known worldwide as the “Big Easy” for his seemingly effortless but powerful golf swing, Els holds 47 international and 19 PGA Tour titles, including three majors. His two wins this season on PGA Tour Champions have helped him move into second place in the Charles Schwab Cup standings behind Langer.
Couples, the 1992 Masters champion who out-dueled Scott Verplank by two strokes for the 2017 AmFam title and finished third in 2018, has been a fan favorite on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions for decades. He is playing in this week's Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, with longtime caddie Joe LaCava on the bag. LaCava has looped for Tiger Woods since 2011, but has been idled since Woods was seriously injured in a February car crash.
A news release Friday indicated that tickets remain on a per-day basis and can be purchased at the tournament's Website at amfamchampionship.com.