By Vartan Kupelian, Champions Tour Insider
Chip Beck knows what to expect when the Champions Tour returns to the Chicago area this week for the new Encompass Championship.
Beck lives in Lake Forest, is familiar with North Shore Country Club and appreciates the area’s affection for sports, with golf high on the list of favorites.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a Champions Tour event in Chicago,” Beck said. “This is really good for the Chicagoland area. I couldn’t be happier. This is a great market for golf. They love golf here even if it is a short season.”
The Encompass Championship, with Career Builder as the presenting sponsor, is the second of three new events this year on the Champions Tour schedule. It will be played at North Shore, a venerable layout in Glenview which was host to the 1933 U.S. Open.
North Shore has an important place in American golf history. It is there that Johnny Goodman, an amateur, defeated Ralph Guldahl by a stroke to win the U.S. Open. Goodman’s victory was the eighth and last by an amateur and came four years after Bobby Jones won his fourth (and final) U.S. Open in 1930 during his Grand Slam year.
North Shore, designed by Harry S. Colt, Alister Mackenzie and Charles Allison, also has been host to the U .S. Amateur twice, in 1939 and 1983. Jay Sigel won the second of his back-to-back U.S. Amateur titles at North Shore in 1983. Sigel posted an 8-and-7 victory over Chris Perry.
Sigel, one of America’s most honored amateur golfers, won eight times on the Champions Tour between 1994 and 2003.
“North Shore is a very good golf course,” Beck said. “Ample room off the tee on most of the holes, some pretty long par 3s. And the course has so much history. It goes back to the Bobby Jones era which is kind of nice.”
The 17th is a 231-yard par 3, and the other four short holes are all at least 181 yards.
“What makes the golf course very challenging are all the subtleties,” Beck said. “The greens are hard and fast. Let me tell you, it’s very difficult to get the ball close to the hole and putting will be a key component.
“They’ve reversed the nines from when Goodman won the U.S. Open. The front nine is a lot harder and I think we’ll see birdies coming in. It will make for a really good championship.”
The Champions Tour last visited Chicago in 2002 for the Ameritech/SBC Senior Open, which was played from 1991-2002. The final year was at Harborside International where Bob Gilder won.
The Encompass Championship features a pro-am format with Champions Tour professionals joining amateurs and celebrities on the first two days of the tournament, Friday and Saturday. The normal Wednesday and Thursday pro-am events also will be held.
“It’s a great format,” Beck said. “Especially in a city like this. We’ve got some great celebrities. It’s a real celebrity field, which makes it fun, and if the Blackhawks weren’t in the (Stanley Cup) playoffs, we’d have some of the hockey players in the field.”
Former Chicago Bulls stars Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc will be competing in the celebrity portion of this week’s Encompass Championship. Other competing celebrities include Pat Foley, Robbie Gould, Dennis Haysbert, Joe Theismann, Marc Trestman, Brian Urlacher and Chad Watson.
The Encompass Championship also will mark the return of Nick Price to the Champions Tour. Price, who is captain of the International team for this year’s Presidents Cup, has been sidelined since last year while recovering from torn ligaments in his left elbow. Among Price’s 18 victories on the PGA TOUR were a pair of Western Open titles in Chicago in 1993 and 1994.
In addition to Beck, the Encompass field includes Jeff Sluman of Hinsdale and Gary Hallberg, a native of Berwyn, Ill., who now lives in Castle Rock, Colo.
Beck will be making only his fifth start of the season this week.
“I’m starting to play a little more and getting into the season,” Beck said. “I’m starting to play a lot better, a little rusty, but the good news is I’m playing most every day when I’m home. I’m enjoying playing. I’m going to be ready.”