After 11-year absence, the senior tour returns with the Encompass Championship in Glenview
BY HERB GOULD email@example.com June 18, 2013 9:54PM
AT A GLANCE
What: Encompass Championship, PGA Champions (senior) tour.
When: Tournament Friday through Sunday, practice rounds Wednesday through Thursday. Celebrity pro-am on Friday and Saturday. Traditional pro-am on Wednesday and Thursday.
Where: North Shore Country Club, Glenview. General spectator parking at Old Orchard mall, shuttle to course. Parking and shuttle are complimentary.
TV: Golf Channel, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday; 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets: Daily, $20. Weekly pass, $90. VIP tickets also available. No charge for children under 18. For more information, 888-302-5446 or encompasschampionship.com.
Updated: July 20, 2013 6:51AM
For years, Champions Tour players have been asking Jeff Sluman and Chip Beck, who live in the Chicago area, why Chicago didn’t have a senior tournament.
That question is off the table. For the first time since 2002, golf’s old-timers return here this week for the inaugural Encompass Championship at North Shore Country Club in Glenview.
The event will have a top-notch field led by seven World Golf Hall of Fame members — Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Nick Price.
Also in the high-profile field will be Rocco Mediate, Mark O’Meara, Fuzzy Zoeller, Fred Funk, Jay Haas, Hal Sutton, Beck (a Lake Forest resident), Sluman (from Hinsdale) and former Park Ridge resident Gary Hallberg.
“Everybody wants to come here,” Sluman said. “When they found out North Shore was the venue, they were so excited. The format’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s shaping up to be an unbelievable week.”
In an effort to create a Champions Tour version of the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach pro-am, celebrities will compete in a pro-am during the opening two rounds, on Friday and Saturday.
The celebrity lineup includes recent Bears retiree Brian Urlacher, Bears kicker Robbie Gould, Bears coach Marc Trestman, former Bulls Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc, Blackhawks broadcaster Pat Foley, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, Wounded Warrior advocate Chad Watson and actor Dennis Haysbert, who pitches for Allstate, Encompass’ parent company.
Among the lures of the Champions Tour is that it’s a reasonably priced opportunity to see talented golfers who can still play but have things in perspective. Tickets start at $20 to see former greats who want to have fun as well as win.
“They’re much more relaxed,” said Encompass president Tom Ealy. “They also know their bread is buttered by the fans and the corporate sponsors. We’ve found the players to be incredibly gracious, if not vivacious.”
They’re also extremely competitive.
“The competition is ridiculous and it’s fast,” said first-year Champions tour member Rocco Mediate, mentioning the 54-hole format. “If you shoot around par on Friday, you’re going to get your butt kicked.”
That said, the 7,103-yard, par-72 course is no slouch. North Shore, a Harry Colt layout that opened in 1924, hosted the 1928 Western Open, the 1933 U.S. Open, the 1939 and 1983 U.S. Amateurs.
“We’ve played U.S. Open qualifiers here in the past and my friends would say, ‘Chip, we could play a U.S. Open here,’ ’’ Beck said.
“None of our courses are driver-wedge, like you hear,” Mediate said. “Our courses are not 6,000 yards long.”
Unlike past attempts to bring senior events to Chicago, the Encompass will be held in the north suburbs, in the backyard of affluent golfers. The BMW, which will be played at Conway Farms in Lake Forest in September, also is hoping to reap dividends from its prime location.
While the BMW moves around, the Encompass tourney hopes to become an annual event in a city that hasn’t had a regular golf tournament since the Western Open was an early July fixture.
‘‘Why wouldn’t we be here?’’ Mediate said. ‘‘Chicago has a zillion great golf courses. I’ve always loved Chicago. I think everybody’s going to love this. I can’t wait.’’