Am Fam championship - Walking up the 18th - Cropped

It was all smiles as 2017 American Family Insurance Championship winner Fred Couples, right, walks up the 18th fairway with, from left, Nicki Stricker, who caddied for husband Steve, second from left, and Mark Chaney, who caddied for Couples. 

On the PGA Tour Champions, the 11th hour comes two weeks before the event when it comes to a golfer deciding to play in that tournament.

Fred Couples' commitment to the American Family Insurance Championship hours before the 78-golfer field was set created a great deal of excitement. And that was saying something since it also came on the eve of U.S. Open Championship week in Wisconsin, as most eyes were glued to Erin Hills. 

However, his willingness to make his debut at University Ridge GC in Madison came with a caveat. If his back was healthy enough to tee it up, he would.

 Oh, it was healthy alright.

Couples shot 67-66 in his first two trips over the Robert Trent Jones, Jr., layout, earning him a spot in the penultimate group in the final round with reigning U.S. Senior Open champion Gene Sauers and tournament host Steve Stricker. He birdied six of his first 11 holes on the final day en route to a 6-under-par 66 that left him with a two-stroke victory over Scott Verplank.

Stricker birdied two of his last three holes to shoot 69 and finish tied for third. But as thrilled as he was to play well in his own tournament in the first year he was eligible, he was even more trilled his recruiting efforts to get Couples to play in the Am Fam Championship led to him winning the whole thing, a feat Wisconsin.Golf makes the No. 6 story in our top 17 stories of 2017.

Rob started covering the Wisconsin golf scene in 1987 at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison & has been the only reporter covering all levels of state golf. He joined Killarney Golf Media in Sept. 2015 & helped launch Wisconsin.Golf in Jan. 2016.