Former LPGA Champion Sherri Steinhauer brings her competitive edge to the sport of Pickleball
Sherri Steinhauer retired from the LPGA tour in 2012 after a 26-year career. However, the Madison, Wisconsin native who now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, is not done competing. Her new sport of choice is pickleball.
After three hours of playing pickleball, Steinhauer joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle from her patio in Phoenix to talk about her amazing golf career and her passion for her new sport.
Steinhauer's rookie season on the LPGA Tour was 1986. She would go on to win eight tournaments on the Tour, including two major championships, the 1992 du Maurier Classic (now called the Canadian Women's Open) and the 2006 Women's British Open. The 2013 inductee of the Madison Sports Hall of Fame says her first tour victory in Canada brings back plenty of fond memories.
"You getting that first one is the hardest accomplishment. I was in the final group on the last day and had a chance with my parents there, it was an amazing situation. It came down to the last hole. I was one shot ahead and ended up making a par and the closest competitor Judy Dickinson was one shot back and she bogeyed the hole so I ended up winning by two. That was probably the most amazing feeling because at that point I had been playing golf my whole life and to work so hard towards something and to finally have that all pay off, that's what I remember most about that win."
When Sherri was 12, she had a moment on the golf course that sparked her desire to be a professional.
"I remember it like yesterday. I was playing in the state tournament and I ended up losing in match play. I qualified for the championship flight. I lost in match play to the gal who ended going on to win it. And it was interesting because I was in a playoff with her. It was a dogleg left, par 4 and I remember saying to my mom 'I can't get past the corner' because I was 12 years old and couldn't get past the corner of the dogleg and I said she can! Mom said you just go do what you can do. And I hit it across the dogleg and on the green and missed my putt but I said this was the most darn fun I've ever had. I love the competition. I was interviewed that day, and I will never forget being interviewed. Mike Lucas was his name, out of Wisconsin and he asked me what I wanted to do for a living, and I said I wanted to be a professional golfer."
Steinhauer credits her golf success to her legendary instructor, the late Manuel De la Torre, who was head golf professional at Milwaukee Country Club, one of America's most esteemed golf clubs.
But it was a two-week stint at Steinhauer's then family-owned butter production plant, that cemented her decision to keep playing the game of golf early in her pro career. She was ready to quit when her father knew that offering her a job at the plant may convince her otherwise.
"I was in a major slump in my career and it was just too stressful for me and I couldn't deal with it. I said that's it, and he (dad) said come to work. I did. They tell me later my mom would say to my dad, 'What are you doing, why are you having her do this?' And he goes 'don't worry, she will come into my office one day and be one.' It was two weeks later and I walked in and said 'Dad you know it looks pretty nice outside and he said get out of here and I went right back to golf."
Steinhauer finished as high as seventh on the money list twice. She also qualified for the Solheim Cup for the first time in 1994. She would also make the team in 1998, 2000 and 2007.
Hip injuries eventually forced Steinhauer to walk away from golf in 2012, but her desire to compete never diminished. Sherri's competitive spirit is now on display in pickleball, a fast-growing sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong.
"Pickleball is just the most addictive and fun sport. It's a sport that anybody can play. The thing that's so great about it is that's very social. It's not as big as a tennis court so you don't have to run too far. It's more quick movements but pickleball is basically, the way I like to describe it, is ping pong on steroids."
Steinhauer is a brand ambassador for Selkirk Sport, the leading pickleball paddle an accessories brand co-founded by Mike and Rob Barnes.
Sherri, who said in her SportsJam with Doug Doyle interview that her Ping 7 iron was the best club in her golf bag, likens her Selkirk Vanguard S2 paddle to that kind of quality and forgiveness with a big sweet spot.
"It's been a great paddle, my favorite paddle to go to. Selkirk is more than just the equipment. They do so much in the community and growing the sport and engaging all generations to play, they're quite a special company."
You can SEE the entire SportsJam interview with Sherri Steinhauer here.