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Len Ziehm On Golf

Nick Price returns to Champions Tour at Encompass event

Some of Nick Price’s best days in a Hall of Fame career on the PGA Tour came in Chicago, when he won back-to-back Western Opens at Cog Hill in 1993 and 1994.

Price’s participation in this week’s new Encompass Championship is big news on the Champions Tour simply because he’s playing again. He hasn’t competed on the 50-and-over circuit since last August when he suffered a torn ligament in his left elbow.

His return comes at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, in the second of three new tournaments on the Champions Tour schedule. One of eight former Western champions in the field, Price will hit his first shot in Thursday’s pro-am. There’ll also be a day-long pro-am on Wednesday (TODAY), and among the players in it will be Bob Gilder – winner of the circuit’s last Chicago event, at Harborside in 2002.

The Encompass’ 54-hole main event begins on Friday with a new look from the circuit’s previous Chicago visits. In the first two rounds the 81 pros will be paired with an amateur in a two-man, two-day team event. The amateurs include a few celebrity types – Bears’ kicker Robbie Gould; retired football stars Joe Theismann and Brian Urlacher; ex-Bulls Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc; new Bears’ coach Marc Trestman; Jack O’Callahan, who played for the Blackhawks after helping the U.S. won an Olympic hockey gold medal in 1980; wounded warrior Chad Watson and Hawks’ broadcaster Pat Foley.

Only the pros will be on the course on Sunday when the $1.8 million purse will be distributed, with the champion receiving $270,000.

Nine winners from the Champions Tour’s first 10 tournaments of 2013 are in the field, including David Frost and Bernhard Langer – the only two-time champions. They also rank 1-2 in the circuit’s season-long Charles Schwab Cup standings.

Champions from Chicago’s golfing past will be headed by Hale Irwin, who won five times on area courses – the 1975 Western Open at Butler National, the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah, the 1995 Ameritech Senior Open at Stonebridge and the 1998 and 1999 ASO at Kemper Lakes.

Irwin, Langer and Price are among seven Hall of Famers in the field, the others being Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw and Sandy Lyle. In addition to Irwin and Price the Western Open winners competing at North Shore include Tom Kite (1986), Crenshaw (1992), Scott Simpson (1980), D.A. Weibring (1987), Wayne Levi (1990) and Russ Cochran (1991).

Another former Chicago winner, John Riegger, will make his Champions Tour debut at North Shore after just reaching his 50th birthday. He won the 2007 LaSalle Bank Open on the Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour.

He’s a player again

Lance Ten Broeck learned his golf on Chicago’s South Side and won on the PGA Tour before switching from player to caddie. As Jasper Parnevik’s long-time bag-toter Ten Broeck rarely competed as a player, but he’ll be in the field this week. He shot 68 in Monday’s open qualifying round at Deerfield to earn a spot among five survivors. Tim Matthews was low man with a 66.

Ten Broeck isn’t the only player giving the Encompass some local flavor. Jeff Sluman, Gary Hallberg and Chip Beck – all Champions Tour regulars – are also entered.

Did you know?

The Illinois Women’s Amateur makes a rare Chicago appearance next week. The 80th version of the event will begin a four-day run on Tuesday (JUNE 25) at Cantigny in Wheaton.

Samantha Troyvanovich has made a verbal commitment to defend her Illinois Women’s Open title at Mistwood next month. She’s competing in the Women’s Western Amateur this week in Dayton, Ohio.

Steven Ihm, the first University of Iowa golfer to be awarded a sponsor’s exemption to the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, just captured the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur title in Pennsylvania.

Pat Rollins, the Lombard police officer who got a confused Rory McIlroy to last September’s Ryder Cup singles matches at Medinah in the nick of time, has been named police chief in Sugar Grove.

Wilson Sporting Goods will host Mike Small Day festivities June 28 at Stone Creek in Urbana.