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Len Ziehm On Golf

Here’s 10 good reasons to go to the Encompass Championship

The Encompass Championship on the Champions Tour is coming to North Shore Country Club in Glenview from June 16-22. Tournament rounds are June 20-22. If you love golf you should be there. Here’s 10 good reasons why:

1, It’s Unique.

The pro golf tours are making fewer and fewer appearances in the Chicago area, and — with the BMW Championship going to Cherry Hills in Denver in September — the Encompass will be the only stop from any of the circuits in 2014 and is also set for another staging at North Shore in 2015.

2, It’s Meaningful.

The best players on the 50-and-over tour are playing 54 holes for $1.8 million in prize money with the champion receiving $270,000. Points are also on the line in the Champions Tour’s Schwab Cup competition, which could mean a big season-ending payday. This is no exhibition. That’s significant money and the competition will be intense.

3, The Players are Famous.

At least most of them are. With pro golf events it’s never a given on who will show up until the day before the tournament week, but the Champions Tour is filled with PGA stars of the past, and most will be competing at North Shore. Encompass director Mike Galeski is expecting Jay Haas, Colin Montgomerie. Jeff Sluman, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer, Nick Price, Chip Beck, Corey Pavin, Kenny Perry, Rocco Mediate, Steve Elkington, Fred Funk and Mark O’Meara to show up. He’s also hopeful Fred Couples, last year’s runner; 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and Tom Watson, his successor as the leader of America’s Ryder Cup effort, will make it as well. Even if a few top players decide to take the week off, name recognition may well be better at this Champions Tour event than at many of the PGA Tour stops.

4, It’s For a Good Cause.

The tourney will have four new charity beneficiaries this year – Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Illinois chapter; Jr. Achievement of Chicago, The First Tee of Greater Chicago and the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund. All are dedicated to helping youth, and the Champions Tour players will also host a Junior Clinic from 3-4 p.m. of tournament week. In addition to those organizations a Birdies for Charities program will be in effect for the first time with fans able to make pledges to charities of their choice off the number of birdies made during the competition.

5, The Price is Right.

Tickets start at $20 for grounds privileges any day, but youth17 and under will be admitted free as will military personnel, both active and retired. A book of six tickets, all good for any day of the tourney, is $90. Champions Club privileges are $250. Parking is available at Old Ochard Mall with free shuttle service to the course.

6, The Site is Special.

North Shore is one of Chicago’s oldest and most historic courses. It opened in 1924 and hosted the Western Open just four years later, Abe Espinosa winning the title. In 1933 North Shore hosted the U.S. Open, and Johnny Goodman triumphed. He’s the last amateur to win the U.S. Open. The club also welcomed the U.S. Amateurs of 1939, won by Marvin “Bud’’ Ward, and 1983, won by Jay Sigel. Prior to the Encompass the last major event held at North Shore was the 2011 Western Amateur. That event was won by Ethan Tracy. Few private clubs have hosted so many big tournaments and those that have rarely open their doors to the public. The Encompass offers one of those rare opportunities to see where so much golf history was made.

7, Viewing is Excellent.

Like most every course built before the 1950s, North Shore wasn’t designed to host big spectator events. Courses all had to be walk-able when North Shore was built because there were no golf carts. As a result, the greens and tees are relatively close together. You can easily walk a round with any player. That’s not an easy thing to do at PGA Tour events.

8, There’s a Celebrity Component.

There’ll be a tournament within a tournament during the first two days of the Encompass Championship. Each of the 81 professionals will be paired with an amateur in a 36-hole, two-man team event during the Friday and Saturday rounds. About 10 of the 81 amateur spots were reserved for celebrities and the early ones who committed to participate included Brian Urlacher, Roger Clemens, Toni Kukoc and Jeremy Roenick.

9, The Defending Champion has a Story to Tell.

Craig Stadler, better known in golf circles as The Walrus, was a surprise winner of last year’s Encompass Championship. His game was suffering before he got to North Shore – the last of his previous eight Champions Tour wins was in 2004 and he hadn’t even contended since 2007 — and it hasn’t been all that good since his victory there. Still, he was in the world golf spotlight in April when he joined son Kevin as the first father-son combination to compete in the same Masters tournament. Craig got in because he was the famous tourney’s 1982 winner. Kevin qualified as winner of a PGA Tour stop during the previous year. Kevin finished high enough to return to Augusta National next year. Craig missed the cut and has said that will be his last appearance at the Masters. Defending his Encompass title won’t be easy for the 61-year old Stadler either, but at least he appears recovered from the hip surgery and variety of other ailments that slowed him down for a six-year period.

10, You Can Always Watch.

While North Shore is a spectator-friendly place, the event won’t be hard to follow even on the days you can’t get there. Golf Channel will provide live coverage from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Friday (first round), and 2-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (second and final rounds).