Sepp Straka had a choice: his native country or his adopted country.
The University of Georgia graduate went with his roots and his heart, which is why he’s playing for Europe this week in the Ryder Cup.
Straka’s mother Mary is American but she moved to Austria and was working in a golf pro shop there when she met her future husband Peter and the father of their two twins, Sepp and Sam.
They moved to Mary Straka’s hometown of Valdosta when the boys were 14 years old and they went to Lowndes High School and then played golf for the Bulldogs. Sepp Straka became the 11th former UGA player — and the first Austrian — to win on the PGA Tour when he won the 2022 Honda Classic.
He later added a victory at the John Deere Classic in July.
Straka, 30, played for Europe in the 2011 European Boys Team Championship in 2011 and in 2021 represented Austria in the Summer Olympics in Japan.
The International Federation of Golf requires players with dual citizenship to wait at least four years to play another international competition under a different flag.
Straka never wavered in staying true to Austria and Europe.
“I’ve always felt really close to my Austrian heritage,” Straka said during a pre-Ryder Cup press conference at the Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. “My dad is Austrian [and] always made sure I spent a lot of time going back. Even my mom, who grew up in the States and is 100% American … [has] fallen in love with the country, and I think she’s probably just as Austrian as a lot of Austrians are.”
Straka has a Georgia accent and is as avid a Bulldog alum as there is. But European captain Luke Donald said it hasn’t mattered in the team room and practices.
“He might have an American accent and lives in Georgia, but there’s a few of us that live in America and a few of us that are married to American girls,” said Donald, who played at Northwestern and lives in Chicago. “It’s just the way it is. We are all Team Europe this week.”
Trump courses out?
LIV Golf’s 2024 schedule, which was leaked this week by SI.com and could change, has 14 tournaments, the same as this year.
However, none of the tournaments are currently scheduled to be played at a course owned by former President Donald Trump.
Here’s a possible reason: Part of the tentative agreement between the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour is that LIV Golf will continue but will be under the purview of Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
Trump and the PGA Tour have been at odds since 2016, when his comments about Latin American immigrants during his election campaign prompted former commissioner Tim Finchem to move the Tour’s World Golf Championship from Trump Doral.
The PGA of America also moved the PGA Championship from Trump’s course in Bedminster, N.J., four days after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“Our feeling was given the tragic events of Wednesday that we could no longer hold it at Bedminster,” PGA president Seth Waugh told the Associated Press at the time. “The damage could have been irreparable. The only real course of action was to leave.''
Trump’s courses have hosted five LIV events at Doral, Bedminster and outside Washington, D.C.
LIV Golf is scheduled to play at Doral Oct. 20-22. The 2024 schedule simply lists the final event as being in “South Florida.”
The rest of the 2024 schedule has five other events in the U.S. and eight overseas. The U.S. tournaments will be in West Virginia, Las Vegas, Dallas, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and South Florida.
Operation Shower set at Timuquana
The Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation and PNC Bank will host the latest in a series of “Operation Showers” — a group baby shower for 35 military moms-to-be on Sunday, an event that kicks off a week of activities surrounding the Constellation Furyk & Friends PGA Tour Champions tournament.
The expectant mothers are active-duty military or the spouses or partners of deployed Marines, sailors, airmen, or soldiers. In addition to PNC, support for the event is provided by Chicco and Circle K.
The event is one of 10 Operation Showers this fall. Gifts for the expectant mothers are being donated by the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation, Chicco, The Alycat Series, Delta Children’s, Natural Life and Diaper Genie.
“For more than a decade, Jim and I have seen first-hand the difference that Operation Shower makes for military members and their families,” Tabitha Furyk said in a statement. “The look on the moms’ faces as they are pampered with gifts and shown true appreciation and support is incredible at every Operation Shower event that we host. We are humbled to honor the sacrifice that these men and women make to serve our country.
Aberg has priorities right
Ludvig Aberg played well enough during the summer to earn a captain’s pick for the European Ryder Cup team by Donald. The native of Sweden played at Texas Tech, won the Ben Hogan Award twice as the top college golfer, was a two-time Big 12 champion and finished first on the PGA Tour University rankings.
That gave him status on the PGA Tour but he caught Donald’s attention by winning the European Masters, one of three top-10s on the DP World Tour. He’s the first Ryder Cup player on either side to have yet to play in a major championship.
During a news conference, Aberg was asked if he was heading towards the same star power as other Swedish notables such as past British Open champion Henrik Stenson, tennis star Björn Borg, retired soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic — and ABBA.
“I would not put myself in the same sentence as ABBA,” Aberg said.
When: Friday-Sunday, Marco Simone Golf Club, Rome.
At stake: No purse.
Defending champion: United States.
TV: USA Network (Friday, 1:30 a.m.-noon; Saturday, 1:30-3 a.m.; NBC (Saturday, 3 a.m.-12 p.m.; Sunday, 5:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Area players entered: Brian Harman of St. Simons Island, Ga. Zach Johnson of St. Simons Island is the U.S. captain.
U.S. team: Sam Burns, Patrick Cantlay, Wyndham Clark, Rickie Fowler, Harman, Max Homa, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas.
European team: Ludvig Aberg, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Nicolai Hojgaard, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, Robert MacIntyre, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Sepp Straka.
Notable: The U.S. will try to win the Ryder Cup in Europe for the first time since 1993 at The Belfry, in England. Tom Watson was the captain of that team and the U.S., which won 15-13, had six players who would eventually wind up in the World Golf Hall of Fame, Davis Love III of St. Simons Island, Raymond Floyd, Lanny Wadkins, Fred Couples, Tom Kite and Payne Stewart. … The U.S. won 19-9 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., in 2021, with Steve Stricker as the captain. … The U.S. holds a 27-14-2 edge in either winning or retaining the Ryder Cup since it began in 1927 but has gone 9-11-1 since continental Europe was added to Great Britain/Ireland. … Harman and Straka both played golf at the University of Georgia. Straka grew up in Valdosta.
Event: NW Arkansas Championship, Friday-Sunday, Pinnacle Country Club, Rogers, Ark.
At stake: $2.3 million purse ($345,000 to the winner).
Defending champion: Atthaya Thitkul.
TV: Golf Channel (Friday-Saturday, 2-5 p.m.; Sunday, 4-7 p.m.).
Area players entered: Amelia Lewis, Mel Reid.
Notable: Thitkul shot 61 in the second round but had to go to a playoff with Danielle Kang, which she won on the second hole. … U.S. Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Lyda Ko and Alexa Pano are in the field.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Former Georgia Bulldog Sepp Straka stays with his homeland in Ryder Cup